River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2008

Our monthly tale from the banks of the River Wissey, courtesy of The Northwold Times

It is deathly quiet and everything seems fast asleep. It is mid afternoon but there is no brightness. The trees and surroundings alongside the river are drab and dreary as if in a morbid suspension. Already the shadows of dusk are obvious. Suddenly there is a swirl and a splash in mid-water and a fleeting glance sees an enormous tail fin disappear back into the deeps. The disturbance causes a large expanding circle of waves, which hit the bank with a succession of loud slaps. Before peace returns a lone ivory black moorhen paddles out from the margins and protests with a long laborious chant.

Under the surface a monster pike is on the prowl. During the winter months the pike's movements are somewhat irregular. When the temperature is cold she is lethargic and spends long periods hidden in thick weed beds. Her size dictates she must still feed and then she slowly swims up and down the well-defined patrol routes in her role as predator. However today the weather is mild and she is fully active. She heads for the warmer and shallow water of a nearby dyke. Here several shoals of small fish are gathered. The dyke provides them with protection away from the strong currents of the main river but their peace and safety will soon be threatened.

The sound of slow beating wings heralds the arrival of a family of swans. In perfect formation they circle and quietly land on the long narrow stretch of river. The cygnets have outgrown last years grey plumage and are now spotlessly white. They glow in the half-light. With regimental precision and full of purpose they paddle downstream as if on an important mission. Immediately the swans disappear a flight of many geese also land but their arrival is unlike the swans. They shatter the calm with non-stop splashing and fierce arguments. Resembling a gang of thugs they loudly contest each other for watery territory until they eventually divide into less animated groups.

The mottled green colouring of the giant pike makes it almost invisible and no one has seen her passage to the fish-filled dyke. En-route a solitary silver bream has been intercepted near the surface. The attack was so quick that the prey had no knowledge that its fragile life was to end as a tasty morsel for one the rivers biggest residents.

At the entrance to the dyke the pike stops. The only movements are her tail fin to keep station and the essential workings of her gills. As if to confirm the dyke as a prime location another dozen or so roachlings swim into the trap. They failed to see their natural enemy but she has certainly seen them! A few minutes later the dyke erupts in a fury. Tiny fish leap out of the water. Great splashing and slamming is heard. Our pike has demolished huge numbers of fish with her shovel-like mouth. Her size is deceptive as the speed and fury with which she attacks is breathtaking. Her tail alone has stunned several more fish which are now floating on the surface and will soon be found to satisfy the wanting appetite.

Heavy black clouds now fill the sky. Ever since morning there has been uncertainty as to whether it will rain and it seems the decision has at last been made and that the heavens are now ready to remonstrate. Another day is ending and for the time being at least the small insignificant dyke adjoining the river Wissey is quiet again.

Ivor Hook

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