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Fen Pike in -2C

Fen Pike in -2C

Yesterday Rick Bellars and I planned to go out fishing after pike, knowing it was going to be sub zero temperatures with its own challenges.
Being the last day of 2 weeks of Artic temperatures this past week its been -6 to -9 at night with day time barely getting above 0, I knew I wanted to get out and about . I know many pike anglers have prayed for a proper “cold stint”. The freezing temperatures kills off the last of the summer water weed where baitfish like to hide from predators, no weed means the baitfish will need to shoal up in large shoals for protection from those pesky predators. If it’s not been said before, find the baitfish, find the Pike.

Fen Pike in -2C

Knowing that all the fen drains were frozen over, Rick and I knew we needed to find moving water; Rivers or drains with a flow. We got to the venue just after dawn, walking down to the bank taking care not to go arse over tit! Most the bank edge had frozen up to 2 meters wide in a couple of places, as we both had long reach nets; that would not be a problem as only paces away were not as wide frozen patches. But things were moving and not frozen solid.

I was trying out a “trick” to keep my hands a bit warmer but wearing surgical gloves under my usual snug neoprene gloves. I suffer from cold hands and on days like this or Northerly breezes my hands really feel it! The idea behind this is that your skin doesn’t get wet = feeling colder. Did it work? I am need to do a couple more trips to know for sure, there was not much of a breeze for me to really tell. But my hands were not as cold as I thought they would be.
It didn’t take long for rod eyes to start freezing up along with ice build up on the fly line its self, so long as you kept on top of clearing the ice after every 10 minuets; you were fine. Rick was on his Intermediate line and I opted for the new Sink 3 as we both wanted to go low n slow to see if we can move fish tucked in on the bottom. At one stage I forgot and mid cast my fly line just stopped casting due to the ice build up. The other thing that both Rick and I quickly noticed is that our casting was not as good as it usually is, fly falling short or not going as far as it usually does. This was caused by the extra ice weight on the line as well as lack of smoooooth fly line as it was coated in ice, as we cast you could hear the ice fighting the rod eyes. An extra haul and tighter loop seemed to help with this.

Near the end of our freezing day out, OK about 3 hours after we started. I lost my favorite pike fly pattern! I cast out and on that retrieve it just felt too light/easy, when my leader hit the top rod eye I could see why…. no fly attached! 😭 I use the fast link clips and only one other fly has been lost as the knot of my wire trace had worked its way around the clip and off! Will this put me off using these clips? Nope as I have had 1,000s of casts with no issue.
I was challenged over a year ago to tie a fly from a photo of the Fire Tiger Lure, this fly quickly became my go to pattern with the way it swam, it’s light but bulky body and it certainly saw its fair share of action. So to date I have ONLY lost 4 pike flies in 5 Winters; 2 to the same snag a year apart and 2 that came off on their own. Compared to some cough Rick cough; thats bloody good going when you know you have cast it in to trees/bushes/reeds on the opposite bank more times than I care to count! I will see if I can replicate this as I need this back in my fly box.

Fire Tiger Pattern

After loosing my fave fly, I decided to call it a day. Rick had one tug early on in the morning, returning to the spot 20 mins later yielded nothing. We braved the sub-zero temperatures for a good 3 hours with no visible follows or takes. We had also noticed no baitfish topping or moving, certainly no pike smashing baitfish while we were there. Part way through the morning I spotted 2 people walking over the bridge holding camp chairs, bit odd as they were headed down a stretch of windy road and the bird spotters were a few miles away. 🤔
Pike were well and truly tucked up in bed which seemed a much better idea when my alarm clock went off! We decided to pop in to the pub for a coffee, warm up and chat about fishing photography sharing some tips and tricks. All in all we both enjoyed the morning despite blanking, it is after all FISHING and not Catching.
In case anyone has not had a chance to read Ricks own blog on Facebook called Pike, Fly only. Its always a great read with awesome photography and whit.

Photo by Rick Bellars

Fenland skating history, The fens has a lot of history in its own right and one of the past times dating back to the 1760s. I have been told about years ago was the ice skating on the wash or other frozen over areas, read the articles up on the wall in the Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. I’ve spoken to (in passing) the grandson of the famous fen skater James Smart and I had heard that people were out skating this week and wanted to see that for myself. So on my way back home from fishing, I parked up by the bridge on the Welney wash to watch some of the skaters out on the ice and found out why they needed camping chairs that I had seen wandering past earlier! To sit on to change in/out of skates.
For more information on the rich history of the Fenland ice skaters, have a read on the Wikipedia article:-

Fenland Skaters Dec 2022