Week in Paradise

A Week in Paradise

A week in paradise with Jason DaviesIn the world of specialist anglers there are those who court the limelight of publicity as if their lives depend on it and there are those who go out of their way to avoid it. Of course the angling press revel in every opportunity to champion and profit from those that are hungry for glory and, as a result, it is easy for the angling public to lose site of the fact that often the real doers and achievers of angling move almost unseen amongst them. Rarely ever do any of these unsung heroes ever go to print about their hitherto undisclosed exploits but when two anglers of of the calibre of Eddie Turner and Jason Davis decide to collaborate in doing so you can be sure that the resulting publication will stun the angling world... NACA have been extremely lucky to gain a short taster from their forthcoming book for Norfolk Angler. Every now and then, a new angling classic is created. This is one of them! It was the end of February and I was sat at my desk trying to get myself clear for a period of leave due to start the following day. It was absolutely freezing cold outside, the country being gripped by a spell of Arctic weather, and for once, to be honest, I was glad to be indoors, rather than freezing my proverbials off outside. My mate Angus was doing his best to keep the troops entertained as usual by holding court on various matters probably best not described any further here, when, amid all the noise, I suddenly realised my mobile phone was ringing....

The call had come from another trout fishery owner to whom I had made enquiries a number of times previously over several years (but who again had politely declined my efforts). He obviously questioned my sanity when I’d confessed my interest was more in the big pike I suspected were in his water as opposed to any trout they might be feeding on. I’d left my contact number with him anyway, just in case, as you do, but due to the period that had elapsed since the last contact, it had been another of those projects which had disappeared firmly down the tubes prior to even getting off the ground as far as I’d been concerned. That was until the fateful call had come through.....

Suddenly an invitation was extended for a few days’ pike fishing with a view to establishing what fish there might be present in the water, and if I wanted to, I could start immediately! Such invitations are as rare in the Davis household as they are in most others, and when I was told I could use whatever methods I saw fit, including livebaits in the form of trout provided from his rearing pen on site to give me the best chance of success, it was obvious that here was a unique opportunity. I would be the first and only pike angler he had so far allowed on his water which had been run as a trout fishery for over thirty years....

My mind started to race as the brief conversation continued. I’d already booked the last two weeks of the season off work, but purely for the reason that I had an important work-related law exam to study for which I was due to sit on the 14th March of all days. Having struggled previously (due to too much fishing!) to find the time to prepare for the exam as thoroughly as I should have, the leave had been booked solely for the purpose of cramming in more study as opposed to playing about with fishing rods, and for once in my life I’d promised myself and my family that, absolutely regardless of any distractions, I would do what I knew I should do and get on with preparing for the exam. I’d already enjoyed a really good winter’s pike fishing, and in fact only the previous week I’d experienced my best ever day’s pike fishing in terms of big fish caught, catching four twenties in a day, with three of them, incredibly, weighing over twenty-five pounds. I’d put the rods away on the back of that catch, being more than content with the season’s return, but the nature of this new offer now unexpectedly being extended meant that particular decision would need to be the subject of a rather urgent review! After thanking the man for his call and confirming that any pike I caught could be returned to the water as opposed to being removed or culled, and after carefully considering the dire need for further studies for the impending exam, I arranged to meet him at his water early the following morning! Both the good lady and my parents would go absolutely mad at me and I knew I’d never hear the last of it, but this was one opportunity that even if the world had fallen off of its axis during the night, I would not be missing out on the next day. The place had vast potential, and after all the years of polite diplomacy (not usually my strong point!) I’d applied to getting access, I was unable to resist the temptation of having at least a day there, regardless of other distractions, now that the door which had remained firmly shut to the outside world for so long had finally been unlocked.....

I spent the rest of the day simply buzzing with anticipation, and, after getting home from work that evening, got the rods back out and put some bits together for the following morning. From what I could recall of the one previous look around I’d had at the place a year or two previously, tactics for the water would be obvious. It was gin clear, but weedy, even in winter, so the option of trolling baits behind a boat on the water, that I’d been told I could use, set to work just above all that weed, was a logical starting point. Being near to the end of the season, bait choice would also be important, and needed to be something that a big pike with spawning on its mind could not possibly ignore. They had to be alive, and to my preference they had to be big, and as luck would have it,my man had told me the trout he could supply for bait would be mostly around the twelve ounce to one pound mark in size, these sounding perfect for the job in hand. So, after making up a few traces, and thoroughly checking the gear I’d be using the next day for any weakness or damage, for the first time in far too long, I struggled to get to sleep that night through sheer excitement of what the next morning might bring.....

Arriving at the venue in freezing conditions the following morning, I was met by my new best friend in the whole wide world. His fishery was a fantastic looking place and I was immediately struck again by the clarity of the water, the like of which I’d not witnessed before in waters in this country, and with what I already knew of the water’s potential for big pike, I could scarcely believe the opportunity I was suddenly being presented with.....

After being shown round and then provided with the trout baits as promised, I was soon left to my own devices, so after loading the small boat, got straight out and to it, trolling likely looking areas with the baits, and having the odd cast with the lures. But after a couple of chanceless hours, trying various captivating looking features in the reasonably good, although very cold conditions which were prevailing on the day, all I’d managed to establish was that there seemed to be very few pike, if any, present. The water clarity was simply extraordinary and was such that any lure lying on the bottom anything up to twelve feet below me remained clearly visible to the naked eye. However, with the remains of what was obviously extensive summer weed growth emerging into view quite literally everywhere and a lake bed resembling your average egg box in its contours, I felt sure that there had to be some pike down there somewhere, despite the fact that I couldn’t catch, or even see one.The place just reeked of them, and the more time that passed without a sign of a pike, the more I became convinced that something seriously big could be on the cards.....

26lbs 12ozs. One of four twenties captured in a day, with three of them weighing over twenty-five pounds.The next area of the water to cover was at the opposite end of the lake from where I’d spent most of the morning trying, so, before stopping for something to eat, I rowed up towards that end of the lake to give it a quick go before having the break. Crash! Something big hurled itself out of the water about thirty yards up the lake behind me in the previously untried area, and although my back had been towards it when it did so, the water displacement created on the surface left me in no doubt that it had to have been a pike, and a big one too. With the pulse starting to race, I quickly pulled across to the area where the fish had shown and on reaching it left the two big trout baits to rove around behind the boat, both set to work at a depth of around eight feet. The lake bed, however, had dropped away from view, and all I could see below me in this new area, despite the water’s crystal-like clarity, was an inky, deep looking blackness with just the occasional strand of dead weed emerging from the gloom below. This had to be what I’d been looking for, and what with the big fish crashing on the surface right over the spot moments earlier, I was suddenly extremely confident that events were about to turn in my favour.....

I didn’t have long to wait, for no sooner had I reached this area of deeper water than one of the floats slammed under and the line streamed off across the surface and disappeared into the same hole in the water as the float had done only a second or two earlier. It was a heart-stopping moment, and I didn’t dare think how big the pike might be that had taken the large bait so purposefully.....

Winding down on the fish, I pulled into it hard only for the hooks to come out almost immediately and certainly before I’d been able to get any perception of its size. What an anticlimax: the first and perhaps only chance, and I’d fluffed it! But any initial disappointment was short lived, for the other bait which I’d wound out of the way and left on a short line right beside the boat,was suddenly snatched with a vengeance that set the baitrunner howling. No mistake was made with this one, and a few moments later, a short, stout pike which I’d thought might just scrape twenty pounds was boated. The fish was beautifully marked (this being a product of the water’s clarity) and had clearly not seen an angler’s hook before, which was precisely what I’d hoped would be the case. The fish lacked the length it required to quite make it to twenty, but I was hardly disappointed when I weighed her in at 18lbs 8ozs. Things were certainly starting to look very encouraging. I’d found where they were hiding in the deeper water, and with the couple of chances coming almost immediately on finding the feature, I was keen to see what else might be hiding in the weedy depths.....

Christ, what a feeling; 37lbs of beautiful, previously uncaught pike.After drifting the boat into the bank where I’d weighed the eighteen, I quickly got set back up, and, with two fresh baits out behind the boat, started rowing across to the deeper area from which the two chances had just come. Having now found some feeding fish, my food break would have to wait! However, before I’d even got to within thirty yards of where the first pike had come from, one of the trolled baits was again taken with such gusto that the first I knew of it was when the Baitrunner sang out once more, and the rod-top slammed right over. Winding down and thumping into the take I was met with what transpired to be a heavy and living resistance. The small boat spun rapidly and unexpectedly in response to the pressure exerted on the line, causing me to fall over backwards and land straight on my butt! I do like to pride myself on my boat handling skills! A few chaotic moments followed before I eventually regained some composure, as well as my footing, fortunately, then I realised to my amazement that my small craft was firmly on the move. I wasn’t pulling this pike towards the boat, I was pulling the boat towards the pike! With my heart pounding fit to burst out of my chest, I got to the point where I could see the float just beneath the surface, with the fish still surging powerfully around beneath it. The rod stayed locked in its battle curve, the top half being submerged beneath the water’s surface as I tried to lift the fish from the depths, where it appeared fiercely determined to remain. Eventually,however, the pressure from the heavy tackle told, and I was suddenly treated to a sight that I will never forget, for there in the clear water below me, I had my first glimpse of the monstrous pike to which I was connected. The fish was enormous, and was clearly miles clear of thirty pounds, being up towards four feet in length and massively thick across its body. As the giant fish rose slowly in the water towards the boat, the only thing I could think of was that I must not lose this one, even if that meant leaping headlong in after it, should it slip the hooks on the way up. This was one pike that must not get away! Fortunately, however, I was spared the cold dunking, and as I dropped the rod after netting the magnificent creature, I realised I was shaking uncontrollably and my mouth had gone so dry I could barely speak....

The immense thickness of the fish across its back as it lay in the margins before me was completely awesome to behold.The fish turned out to be one of the most beautifully marked pike I’d ever seen, and looked absolutely colossal lying beside the boat in the landing-net. It was hard to comprehend just how broad across its back the fish was, and I couldn’t help but speculate on whether I’d caught myself a forty during the short row back to the bank. After having the devil’s own job lifting the big fish up onto the bank on my own, it was out with the tape measure before weighing to record the impressive statistics of 42” in length to the fork of the tail, and a monstrous 26” in the girth, before pulling the Heatons round to the magical figure of exactly thirty-seven pounds. Christ, what a feeling! Here I was with an immaculate, almost certainly previously uncaught upper thirty in my arms from a virgin water, when at the same time on the previous day I’d been staring down the barrel at commencing two weeks up to my neck in law revision, with no prospect of having a cast in months. It is moments such as these, of course, that as pike anglers we simply live for.....

After snapping off a couple of quick self-taken photographs of the fish, it was soon time to return her, and with the clarity of the water, it was to be another memorable experience.The immense thickness of the fish across her back as she lay in the margins before me was completely awesome to behold, and I felt truly privileged just to have seen such a pike, let alone been lucky enough to have caught her.

Jason Davies