Monday, 4 February 2013

Big Pit Pike — Fossilised

The venue, the reason, the method. That's all there is to fishing. Get it right and you'll have what you design, get it wrong and you'll waste all your money and time. If only there was someway to know these things in advance, eh?

Bishops Bowl Quarry is one of the strangest fisheries you'll ever visit. Surrounded on all sides by vertical cliffs of Blue Lias limestone capped with arid red clay, only the limestone blocks were valuable as cement materials so all the unvalued trash components were dumped in the centre of the bowl as spoil, which is just as well for anglers because it's off the central spoil heaps we cast into the fishery's various waters.

'Greenhills,' our chosen venue today, is the largest and by far the strangest lake of the lot. A sprawling mess of muddy half-revegetated spoil studded with pits, pocks and puddles surrounded on all sides by those Jurassic cliffs. Its waters are gin clear, deep, and the most mysterious I know of.

There's something forbidding in its winter pallette of ashen greys and sombre ochres splashed with tumbling falls of burnt sienna on a background of blues so perishingly cold that no pigment conceived or contrived could ever describe. Somehow, the water appears bluer than the sky —that's unnatural.

Once stocked with rainbow trout but never coarse fish. The rainbows met their inevitable end
by the priest and the sterile grave of breeding habitat unsuitability, but by foot of bird our spawny indigenous species got in, nature abhorring a vacuum and all that, and they thrived. Apparently...

No-one has a clue what it really holds today. A quantity unknown even to the owners who took up the Herculean task of re-sculpting the spoil heaps and making a viable fishery out of the complex only a few years ago. What it really contains remains to be seen.

This is a genuine old school specimen water where it really does feel as if every second spent is pioneering effort. The kind of water I want to catch carp from, that I want to fish overnight for bream and tench, to try a distant cast with a ledgered lobworm just to see what happens, and the very place where a twenty — thirty — forty — fifty pound pike, a fish that was alive and well 100 million years ago and no doubt has fossilised relatives encased in the cliffs, must live.

That's why Martin and I were there today. For Esox lucius...

I'd made a couple of pencil floats out of balsa for canal fishing and they performed very well here , though on such a water as this they could do with being a little larger because there's a lot of water to explore. I like having floats out when piking — there's something immensely satisfying about the way they tell you exactly what's happening when a predator takes the bait.

Correctly set up they dip, bobble or even keel over flat before plunging under or toodling off sideways. I like that and don't understand the appeal of ledgering for predators except when necessary in very deep water. I was OK, the depth was around 8-12 feet in the swims I chose to fish and the 30-40 feet depths the lake has were not nearby.

We were there for what seemed an eternity. In all that time neither of my floats made a single movement I could certainly attribute to fish unless it was a small roach that bumped the line and caused the float to dip about half an hour before packing up and leaving for home. It was exposed, perishingly cold and breezy too which makes for uncomfortable fishing unless you do what I do and that's choose the warmest possible pegs, back to the breeze and the sun full in the face!

I wasn't alone. Martin didn't get a touch either and neither did any of the other pike anglers around the lake — not to dead baits, live baits or lures. It was a Royal Blank for both of us and all of them too. Nevertheless, the scenery was fascinating and time spent in hope of a run seemed trivial besides the colossal age of the fossils of the rocks.

At least I had floats to watch expectantly — a float is always just about to vanish isn't it? Seriously — I'd have fossilised sat behind buzzers!

As the evening sun set the cliffs alight in fiery reds and oranges transforming the lunar landscape into a martian one, we packed down, trudged back through gloopy mud to the car, and headed home. Not a good day's fishing by any stretch of the imagination but the weirdness of the place stretches the imagination anyhow so it wasn't time, money or effort wasted.

I certainly took an awful lot of pictures. Running the battery down from full to empty was the only thing that kept me warm.

In hindsight, think I actually enjoyed the ordeal!


  1. That does look a very intriguing venue Jeff, one of those places that murmurs enticingly to an angler.

  2. I have to admit, the venue you fished looks the part and the mystery that exudes from it would be a lure to me, I love fishing venues like that catching the unknown can just be achieved on the next cast, a 30lb Pike to a 4lb Roach. Unlucky on not catching anything though.

  3. It is a most odd venue! I think it's growing into something good but not quite there yet. I hope the owners just leave it alone and don't stock it too heavily, but somehow I think we'll see a few big carp going in and the natural balance upset.