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Traces

About this pike, then. I've had it in my head to go pike fishing for months now, but as is the way of these things, have been put off by something simple - I'm too cheap to buy ready-made wire traces and I can't get the hang of tying my own; yet having spent a tenner on the all the required bits, I'm loathe to just give up. I'm also concerned about being able to care for all the pike I'm going to catch so I've bought long forceps, found a strong glove, have an unhooking mat and watched several videos on various pike angling sites. Nevertheless, it's all off putting.


But it's also the last day of the river season, so if I want to give it a go - and not let it gnaw at me for the next three months - it's got to be today. I take an hour in the morning and research various trace-tying methods online but they all seem to require tools or components I don't possess and in the end I put my glasses on, put magnifying clips on top of them and peer at the tiny instructions on the back of the trace wire packet that I bought months ago. It looks more straightforward than I remembered. So I have another go and after a couple of fails, I have something worth testing, so I tie on a 5kg weight, grab the carp rod and give it a try. The knots - and more surprisingly, the. crimps and various bits of folded wire - hold well enough. I make more and they come out like home-made rolls, all different shapes and sizes. No matter how I measure I always end up wasting wire and at the end I've got some traces twice as long as the others. But they feel OK and they look like the real thing.

The river is beautiful. Although in an official drought zone, the level hasn't dropped anything like as much as previous years and there are several anglers dotted along the half mile or so stretch. I walk to the top, tackle up with a little rubber perch-like lure (6 for £3.50) check my gloves, forceps and mat are all present and correct and begin to fish.

Three hours later it turns out I needn't have worried about my lack of pike handling skills since despite near-perfect conditions and the amazingly fish-like movements of my little lure, I don't get a single take. I do hook the bottom six or seven times though, and the only break I get is using the one shop-bought trace I'd had in my tackle box for about 10 years - my own mishapen, higgledy-piggledy ones work just fine thanks very much. So I'll claim a moral victory and return next year to try again.

As I'm packing up a small owl appears, following the course of the river downstream until it reaches the bend where I'm standing with my mouth open. Then it rises over the bank on the other side and floats silently into the trees.

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