Far Bank Strangers on the Lev­els...

With a seal on the loose and un­likely cor­ners to ex­plore, Dom Gar­nett has en­joyed a de­cid­edly odd start to the predator fish­ing sea­son...

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

ONE thing I love about au­tumn pike fish­ing is the chance to set foot in new and un­ex­pected places.

The Som­er­set Lev­els are a real labyrinth, of­fer­ing hun­dreds of miles of wa­ter. But they are also mad­den­ingly change­able. As fa­mil­iar as I be­come with the area, it main­tains an un­fath­omable strange­ness. Some things, like win­ter floods, dented lanes and steep banks, you come to ex­pect. Oth­ers might con­vince you that you’re see­ing things.

A seal some 25 miles from the sea is a new one on me. I’d pointed out what I as­sumed was an ot­ter to fish­ing pal John De­prieelle as it cir­cled close to the bridge, be­fore it sur­faced closer and ren­dered us speech­less.

It didn’t stick around for long, but it left us a lit­tle star­tled. We searched plenty of early swims but found the pike elu­sive. I guess 400lb of seal can have that ef­fect, but at least on the Lev­els you’re not short of space to ex­plore.

Every new sea­son is a mys­tery to solve here. You have a huge mish­mash of wild and man-made wa­ters. You must suss out which spots get poached and which are worth try­ing or skip­ping over. And that’s be­fore a bloody seal turns up.

Quite of­ten you can walk for a mile or more with­out a touch, be­fore find­ing a lit­tle con­cen­tra­tion of prey and pike. The lat­ter can be es­pe­cially fickle when wa­ters run low and clear. See­ing many of the fish is thrilling but frus­trat­ing. One or two jacks lash out at my flies and John’s lures, but the larger fish just sulk or bolt for cover.

In the idle late-morn­ing hours there are other dis­trac­tions, in­clud­ing side drains that look too small to hold fish and yet too ir­re­sistible not to try. I ques­tion John’s san­ity as he bal­ances half­way across an old pipe on to­day’s small­est drain. But in one of the dodgi­est fish­ing spots you’ve ever seen, he ex­tracts a per­fect lit­tle perch from 12ins inches of swampy wa­ter.

Back on the main river, lit­tle fish scat­ter and we cast with fresh ur­gency. Au­tumn has been late this year and there are still bil­low­ing beds of streamer weed. I let my pike fly sink just above it and bring it across the flow. Fi­nally, in midriver, there is a scyth­ing rush and the wa­ter ex­plodes. The fish fights hard in the cur­rent, tear­ing off line be­fore sulk­ing in the weed. The long, fit fish in the net is a great start to my pike sea­son, but I’m hop­ing the seal is far away as I slip her back.

Thanks to John De­prieelle for the images.

Wide open spa­ces – a day on the Lev­els.

A wild and wiry Som­er­set pike.

What the heck is a grey seal do­ing here?

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