There is something special about the first fishing trip of a New Year. Perhaps it is the expectation of a new journey to the water’s edge, a fresh start, a time to recalibrate.
This year’s trip proved memorable in part due to the influence of Storm Henk the latest of many named storms over recent months.
The trip was in truth as much a social session as a serious fishing trip starting with a Full English in The Globe Inn at Sampford Peverel conveniently situated a short distance from the Tiverton canal. Keith Armishaw, Lee Armshaw, Dr Mark Everard, Dominick Garnett and two other chaps, one called Sid and the other Mark.
The Met Office promised rain and an amber warning of wind! After negotiating watery roads, we had all arrived safely by just after 8.00am and tucked into an ample breakfast along with fresh coffee. The breakfast chat agenda was mostly of piscatorial matters and of course a few diversions into the tragic state of the world. After planning how to put this right we headed for the muddy waters of the canal.
Each of us had a plan on how to catch a few fish. I had decided to target pike figuring that a smelly dead-bait fished beneath a bright crimson float would give a good chance of a bent rod. Others chose to offer maggots, bread and lures.
The canal water certainly reflected the recent persistent rainfall and water clarity was undoubtedly not good. I chose to fish in the wide basin close to the pub and set up beside a hedge that gave some shelter from the gusty wind and drizzle.
The two floats indicated the position of the baits and I planned to keep recasting every twenty minutes or so to areas that I had a hunch could produce.
The rest of the party headed further along the canal to areas that had a good track record.
After fifteen minutes my right hand float bobbed and started to slide along the surface. I picked up the rod allowed the line to tighten before winding into the fish. I was using a single circle hook and cursed when the fish that felt reasonable came adrift after a few seconds.
I rebaited and flicked out a fresh bait. The wind strength was undoubtedly increasing with strong gusts bowing the trees. The electric blue of a kingfisher flashed past and patches of blue started to show in the Western sky above the village church. The church tower and resonate tolling of the bell within somehow seemed to add a sense of perspective as we embarked upon the journey into a New Year.
Dom came over for a chat and I told him of the lost pike. As we chatted the float on the right hand rod bobbed and the float again slid slowly away. This time the hook held and a pike of around 7lb graced the net. A pleasing start to the year.
By now the wind strength was increasing noticeably with some very strong gusts. Dom had spoken with Lee who had found some clear water on the canal at a location a mile of so away. As heavy rain was threatened and the storm intensified we decided upon a coffee break and a move to find the clearer water.
As we headed to the pub for a hot coffee the wind gusts were exceptional and we heard later that 80mph gusts had been recorded 20 miles away at Exeter!
Early afternoon and we set up a mile or so along the canal to be further buffeted by the howling gale. At least the rain had passed and brighter skies illuminated the scene. The water clarity here was good which gave far more confidence. I put out a bait near to an overhanging tree and started to prepare the second rod. To my amazement the float bobbed and I was in action landing a jack of 3lb before getting the second bait into the water.
I put the bait back into the same spot and made brief contact with another pike after ten minutes or so.
The rest of the afternoon passed by the howling gale swaying the trees. I savoured the winter scene and the rural landscape.
The light slowly ebbed from the day and we all packed away trudging back along the canal towpath to compare notes. A few perch and roach had been tempted along with a small jack.
We reconvened in the Globe for a final coffee and chatted about the day and past and future forays. We were all upbeat and had relished our day beside the water despite the rather meagre results. Plans to return in the warmer more tranquil days of summer in search of tench and rudd were discussed with a youthful optimism that was refreshing considering the fact that several of us were semi-retired.