One of the pleasures of a day's angling is the inevitable presence of that little red-breasted bird, the common robin. And they are very common: rare is the angling day when one of the little fellows is not tramping about all over your gear, clomping about on your rods with his feet, or standing on your boot looking askance into the maggot box, asking to be fed.
Robins have always, in the UK at least, been very tame, and fairly unafraid of anglers and gardeners. With patience they can be trained to feed from the hand. They used to follow wild boar about in the forests, and as the boars rooted around in the ground for roots and whatever else they might find, the robins would stand around, close by, picking up any insects or worms that were disturbed. Nowadays they follow the gardener, or the angler, in much the same way, But remember, whilst that robin is looking quizzically at you as you sit on the riverbank, that what the bird is really thinking is: "When is that lazy pig going to do some work and stir up my food for me?"
But a few days ago, whilst fishing, I did not see a robin all day. Probably the first time this year that I have not been treated to its presence. Most unusual. The damn thing was probably off mating, or feeding its young, or its mate. Extremely selfish of it. No: all I saw were water birds, a few flyover pigeons, crows and gulls. On the land all I saw was one lonely great tit in a nearby tree.
But I was not to be without a companion. Eight or nine times during the day a little ten inch pike ventured into water near my feet, water just some six inches deep, and very clear. It would swim away, but 30 minutes later it would be back, its fins wavering slightly as it kept station just above the sandy bottom of the lake. On its 6th visit I decided to throw it a maggot. The robin didn't want them today, maybe the pike would? And much to my surprise it did, taking eight or nine maggots over the course of an hour. It would watch the maggot sink past its snout, then the fish would sneak up to within a couple of inches, and make a determined, if slightly slow, strike and swallow the maggot. Once it seemed to choke a little, and spat out the maggot, along with a small toadpole (if that isn't a word, it should be). All of the growth stages of toads are supposed to taste very bad, and I assume that taste is what caused the pike to reject the maggot. Eventually it lost interest in such small food items, and drifted off to seek larger prey. Even when the birds are absent, there is always something of interest to see when fishing.