Perfect fall-back methods as the winter bites

I hope I don’t say this too often, but there are things I am really quite good at. One of these is trotting a float on a river the size of the Wensum, Bure, Waveney or Yare. Of, course, on the big scale of things, I am aware it is not a life-changing art. I go for a hernia op on Friday, and I trust my surgeon has far greater skills than my own more modest ones!

Still, as an angler, being good at one particular method can save a hard day, especially as winter is now well and truly with us.

When the going gets really tough, it’s good to have a go-to approach you have confidence in; a get out of jail attack that you know gives you a chance.

Believe me, last week was as hard as it gets. Once the wind swung to the east, sometime late Sunday I guess, temperatures plummeted for all of us.

Tuesday, especially, was a beast, the wind like a rapier, giving us three degrees at best through the daylight hours.

That was when I knew for sure winter had arrived and from that miserable day, right through to the weekend just gone, my results were excruciating.

To catch at all, to catch anything, you simply had to be top of your game. I hate cliches, but there is a grain of truth in them, both new and old. Remember “when the wind is in the East, the fish bite the least”?

Oh so true now as it was in Izaak’s day. The bizarrely interesting aspect for me was that even when the easterly died right away, fishing on both rivers and stills remained rock hard, at least for me and the guys I was out with.

So, pretty much turned to a wreck by the week’s miseries, on Black Friday I reverted to my fall-back position on a Wensum glide.

Thirty yards long over a gravel bed. A nice steady pace. Five feet deep throughout with little if any variation.

An overhanging tree at its bottom end. What was not to like?

With a 14-foot rod, centre pin, two BB stick float, 4lb line, size 18 hook and two pints of white maggots, I was as happy as I had been for days.

The rules for trotting are clear.

Take your time and bait gently, carefully and patiently.

That’s what I did, putting out 50 maggots a minute for 10 minutes before the first run down.

And you do not waste that first trot because that can be the winner, so I didn’t. I guessed the depth pretty much spot on, as you do when you are in tune with a river, but the float went down untroubled.

It still took three casts to gauge the exact line I needed to make the float kiss the overhanging willow fronds and to get those maggots to simply skip along the river bed. Fourth cast and wallop. Down went my speck of red. That sweep of the rod. That dull thump on the tip.

That sensation of life all the way up the line, all the way to the corks of the handle. This is the most satisfying, heart skipping moment in angling.

The take. The strike. The moment of truth.

How great to be alive, what a privilege to feel such a primaeval pleasure.

That was my one moment of triumph and as that easterly continued to dominate my guess is that there wasn’t an angler in the eastern counties that really caught well. I’d like to be proved wrong, though, of course.

I personally couldn’t even get my piking right on the Saturday. Perhaps I should have started earlier or stayed on later?

Should I have persevered with sink and draw longer than I did? After all, much like trotting, this is my favourite pike method, and it does cover the water magnificently well.

No, I didn’t cover myself with glory, but I was chilled to the bone with my heart in my boots, and at 4pm, it was time to call it a day.

Sunday saw me doing a bit of dace fishing, and there is a species you can’t fail with, surely.

Happy dace are, here again, I thought, the perfect tonic. You need to find dace first as you do with any fish, and though I walked 6.7 kilometres, according to my phone, I failed spectacularly to register a bite.

That was then. Now it is looking better all round. Winds from the south and west. Rising temperatures and bouts of refreshing rain.

Roach in rivers and stills are on the cards, along with bream and even last knockings carp perhaps. The pike are probably really going to be up for it by the weekend too, and I bet the perch will be going crackers.

That’s all brilliant news I hope for you. Me? I’ve been told to forget fishing for a week at least after my operation.

Hmm. I’ll probably be back out just in time for the next bout of easterlies so I’ll keep that float rod set up and ready for my return then.

The very best of luck to us all!