Faced with a busy weekend of Halloween shenanigans and other merry-making and with only Saturday morning at my disposal I decided, on a whim, to go lure fishing. Some months previously a friend had given me, very generously, a load of plugs, lures and spinners. It had been years, though, since I had fished for pike.
We are released from the office at four on Fridays so I headed straight for my local tackle emporium, shelled out some of my hard-earned on a 10’ lure rod, some traces and – unable to resist – more lures.
I arrived at my chosen spot – Nafford Lock, Eckington – and upon arrival at the bank side was pleasantly surprised to find I had the place to myself. A further good omen was the sight of a pike bung lying in the frozen grass; a sign that pikers had recently been around. Pocketing the float, and flushed with a sense of kinship to those – probably brilliant – pike anglers, I sallied forth toward the weir pool next to the lock.
I’d brought a Shimano Baitrunner reel to use, purloined from my carp gear. Not ideal, I know, but it was the most appropriate thing to hand and was already loaded with brand new 15lb mono. I strapped it to my new rod – also a Shimano as it happens (A Katana BX 300 MH, for goodness sake) – threaded the line, tied on a trace and opened my box of lures. It was here that the trouble began.
I’d brought my de-barbing pliers and, having selected a lure, set about the task of flattening the barbs. My mistake was failing to take off my woollen fingerless gloves before starting. Immediately – inevitably – I got a treble stuck fast in the palm of the left glove. Maybe I was still a bit groggy from the Halloween celebrations the night before; clearly, I should have removed the right glove at that point: I did not. My attempts to extricate the hooks from the left glove served only to get the right glove hopelessly snagged as well.
After a frustrating ten minutes involving much wielding of the de-barbing pliers I managed to liberate the lure from the offending hand wear. Petulantly, I stuffed the gloves into the deepest pocket of my bag, resolving to ignore them for the rest of the session, despite the cold.
Ready for action at last, and with a resurgent confidence which, in retrospect, bordered on the preposterous, I cast across the weir pool and retrieved: nothing. Nothing then, and nothing for the next three hours. I changed lures until I’d used them all; I varied the retrieve to the very limits of human imagination; I cast into every likely spot on the stretch; I flagged down a passing narrow boat so that the heroic crew could untangle my lure from a willow on the opposite bank (which had imperceptibly lurched nearer just before I attempted to cast beneath it). To make matters worse, the nagging pain of tennis elbow (which I had contracted after a particularly vigorous day of fly casting tuition nine months ago, and which I thought had gone) increased insidiously throughout the morning.
Finally, conceding defeat, I sat down on the bank and rolled a cig. Suddenly more reflective, I began to notice what a lovely looking stretch of river this was. Downstream from the weir pool the river narrowed and the flow increased. I began to regret my rash decision of the previous afternoon. I would have been better off, I reflected, if I had bought some maggots and casters; if I had resisted the siren call of those flashy, gaudy lures, at the tackle shop. The conditions were ideal for trotting a stick down through those gentle, inviting glides. I vowed to return on a different quest another time, to wield a ‘pin in search of roach and chub. As I bent down to pick up my bag, the bung fell from my pocket onto the grass. I left it there, for some reason, for someone else to find.