I went with my friend to the Thames for a bit of pike fishing as we had both caught some nice fish in recent weeks but with heavy frosts and clear water the prospects did not look good. It made a change to walk across stone hard fields instead of soft muddy ones but as the light improved in a cloudless sky, our four red floats bobbing around under the fallen willow branches, as the live baits worked hard, did not look like they would attract a pike. However we were there, so fished on.

The talk passed to years gone by when on similar days we had fished hard, but we had difficulty finding any examples of good sized pike falling to our baits on such days. The most amusing story we remembered was turning up at a gravel pit to find the water frozen completely. The swim that had produced for us was next to a large fallen tree and as we had travelled so far, and the pub opening time was still several hours away, we decided to break the ice and fish anyway. It was a freezing cold day when the temperature never rose above freezing. We found a large branch that I tied to the 15lb breaking strain Brent line. Brent was new then and I was field testing it so this would be a good test for it. Whilst I held the rod with bail arm open Gary proceeded to hurl the branch out in to the swim. Upon impact it broke the ice, I would then reel the branch in for the next throw. Over the space of the next hour a nice channel had been broken and we were able to get a rod each cast out in to the small swim. We expected little action and spent the next hour chatting to a guy carp fishing the lake behind, his lines were frozen in and he told us he was going to wait for the ice to melt rather than pulling for a break, we guessed he may have a long wait.

As we chatted to him Garyís buzzer bleeped a few times and a slow run developed. After a few seconds Gary struck in to what appeared to be a rather good sized pike. Unfortunately, after a minute or so of it fighting well in the deep water, the hook pulled. He had just recast when my buzzer sounded. I waited a little longer than Gary had before striking and again a good pike was hooked. The fight was deep and dogged and after a little flirtation with the fallen tree and making sure the line was not in danger of being cut on the edge of the ice Gary netted a good fish. In fact it weighed 17lb 14oz, it was freezing cold to the touch and as we unhooked it we found ice forming on its fins. We wasted no time in putting it back before making our way to a very warm and inviting pub, leaving our new found carp angler friend to await a thaw, which actually came around a month later! Since then we have never given up on weather conditions but with no action on the Thames this day we retired to the pub as soon as the bolts were thrown open.

One good thing about this time of year is the Fur and Feather club matches. These matches are generally for all club members, whether usually match anglers or not, to meet at a club water and fish for anything that comes along. They are social occasions and the prizes are usually provided from club funds and everyone gets a prize regardless on what is caught. Then it is off to the local pub for beer and food, again provided by the club. It is a way of clubs saying thank you to their members, to increase comradeship and loyalty in the club, and perhaps more importantly, to break down those ridiculous Ďus and themí situations between committee and members. Not all clubs of course hold these matches, generally they are clubs that have a match team but most small clubs run them. I always try and attend them as they are great fun and I get to learn a lot about what has been caught during the summer and from what swims. This season was not different, I have been to two and on both I blanked completely but I saw some good fish caught and learned a lot, plus of course I ate and drank loads of free nosh!

The carp fishing of course this week was lost to the weather as the small shallow lakes I am fishing at the moment freeze over as soon as frost is mentioned, and gravel pits are no place for me on frosty nights, so with Christmas nearly here, its time for dreaming of summer days and huge carp drifting around on top - and me stalking them, here comes a 30lber now heading straight for my floater - oops sorry, dreaming again!

Have fun!