I was going to write about the start of winter and the week we were plunged out of our benign autumn and out into the cold, but the sad passing of Nick Fisher fishing gave me pause.
Many of you will remember Nick from his fishing heyday in the 1990s when he starred in several TV series of Screaming Reels and hosted the Dirty Tackle radio show. He’s since been a chef, a Holby City writer and a Bafta winner, but this was Nick… never, ever boring. He was so full of life that his death at the age of 63 is almost impossible to consider.
Of course, Nick was originally a Norfolk boy, living in Roughton and attending Paston School in North Walsham. Indeed, when I first started working with Nick 30 years ago, the Norfolk fishing and teaching legend that was Michael ‘Robbie’ Robbins told me some heartwarming stories about him as a boy. I can only repeat, Nick was never, ever boring.
For many years, I appeared with Nick from time to time on both TV and radio, but mainly, before the Internet, I did the research required by both Screaming Reels and Dirty Tackle. They both chewed on facts and stories and I was kept busy in my fishing library and those of ‘Robbie’ and David Clarke at Erpingham Lodge. I learned, for example, that you can cook your egg by putting it in a crocodile nest and taking it out again to cook it when the mother Croc takes time off to go swimming…
I have also fished with Nick on the Wensum, Wye and in Sweden and sometimes he would even concentrate for 20 minutes before going off to pick mushrooms or follow a badger trail. Never, never boring. A tragic loss of a fascinating man.
A freezing cold last week and a hard day after they reminded me of my ten degree rule. It sounds crazy, but it has worked for me since 1970 and it goes like this…
If you add the lowest night temperature to the highest day temperature and get a total of 10 degrees, you have a chance on a river for roach, chub and even barbel. So if the night is minus three and the day is at best seven degrees, your score is four degrees and you have little hope. Alternatively, if the night is plus three degrees and the day is nine degrees, the combined total of 12 degrees should see you get on well.
It’s rough and ready, barely scientific and makes no rational sense, but I’ve proven it wrong only sometimes and as a result the weather forecasts will help me plan my river outings in the coming months.
Ten degrees or not, we can all expect some slow days sport over the coming months and that’s just the nature of winter fishing. When the going gets tough, though, do you stick with tried and trusted baits and approaches, or do you go off on tangents, trying new ideas that could make a difference?
I think a lot depends on your nature. If you’re a slow and steady guy like me, then you’re happy to trust the tactics that have worked for you in the past. If you are a blinding Nick Fisher customer, then any cunning plan can provide you with a possible solution and a shortcut to success.
I mention this because the day after that heavy freeze, the late afternoon saw large perch clackers flying to the surface in the full force of the current. Here, there, soon everywhere, giant perch blasted the water in their voracious search. A hundred fish must have been very active. On a small scale, it was like an Attenborough film, a feeding festival of creation. In all my long fishing life, this was something I had never witnessed before. Amazing! Why should they do that?
I was playing it safe, fishing lob worms in a nice, calm, marginal eddy, when my partner immediately set a huge lure and started hitting it mid-river. No way, I thought. Wrong, of course. A hacker landed and I went home frustrated and fishless.
Never, never boring! What a sight to see last week. Brilliant sunsets from 4pm. Kingfishers still burn the blue river. Oaks burn like mountains of brass in shafts of sunlight. Swans arriving at dusk. The owls hooting early and the hedgehogs mingling at the beginning of the dew. What a world of wonder and what a tragedy Mr. Fisher will no longer share with her.