Riverwatch - Revisited
Rain and more rain! The poor River Wissey is almost in flood. The current is tireless and gathers and carries along great volumes of broken branches and debris. This cleaning and sweeping process starts from the meandering beginnings of the river, through the long wide stretches and onwards. Over the weeks to come our waterway will have a new and pristine riverbed for the next season of the year to take over. This is mother Nature's way of spring cleaning and then Spring will follow bringing its warmth and prompt the stocks of fish to recover from the long lethargy of winter.
However there is one fish that never tires or becomes inactive during winter. It is the predatory pike. They are big and must always eat to survive. Now within our very own river there is at least pike of truly enormous proportions. Today she is in the deepest channel where the thick weed beds never die. The weeds provide the perfect shelter and cover for her to wait and ambush any unsuspecting fish. At present she is even bigger than normal as she is full of spawn but do not be fooled for she can still accelerate to top speed in a mere split second. She lays in wait for anything that passes and will then decide if it appeals! She blends well into the surroundings and the only movement is her breathing shown by the opening and closing of her gills. She has plenty of patience but hunger pains are just beginning to irritate her.
Not far away in the shallows a party of four large and handsome roach are also on the lookout for food. Only this week they have become more active and hungry. The rain has washed worms and similar into the river and so the roach now search the bottom in expectation. Alas they have not been successful and they turn away to explore deeper water. Despite the dull day above the surface their silver bodies flash and glint as they twist and turn in and out of the thick network of weed.
Now, you will have guessed that they are near to the pike. She has seen the roach and even sensed them before seeing them. As they come into view she selects a particular fish and focuses all attention on that single one. Suddenly she darts forward. There is a great commotion. Fish scales fly and linger in mid water and then slowly sink to the bottom. But our pike swims away without a catch. The roach have escaped and from such close quarters it is most unusual.
Meanwhile a mere breeze has turned into a strong wind that funnels down the river and grows stronger. Old and aged trees creak and crack. Young saplings are bent and tested. The noise has awoken the resident water rat. His hole beneath an ancient willow tree is now moving up and down as the roots fight to keep their anchor. Soon the rat slides down the muddy bank into the water and swims out to the middle of the river. He is a strong swimmer and is unperturbed by the current.
Our pike is now cross and sulking but like a grumpy child she will soon get over it! The wind will often have an unsettling effect on pike and trigger them to feed. However our pike was already hungry and so she is now frantic for food. She patrols along under the bank and then out into the open water again. Suddenly the surface of the river erupts. There is a quick glimpse of a large tail fin followed by rings of waves spreading out from the centre of the happening. Then almost immediately everything returns to normal as if nothing had ever happened!
Alas the water rat is no longer. The pike has returned to the bottom and is digesting her capture. The rat was hardly big meal and her lust is still not satisfied. She will quickly take up her station again within the same thick weed bed and the quest will begin once more. But this is the way of Mother Nature for like all wild creatures they live by the law of the jungle and do not forget that the river Wissey is indeed itself a jungle! Fortunately it is also forever reliable and faithful so we can be assured it will carry on running its course for all the years to come!
By Ivor Hook