For two extended periods I have fished hard for pike. There is no reason for this per se. The first, the Rye Dyke period, was simply because good sport was available by fishing for pike and the second...well I am not sure, but it was all-consuming for a couple of seasons. For no other reason than these and the resulting vestigial interest, pike fishing has its own page, being a list of short notes on the subject and a longish list of times where I have either caught pike by accident, by design or tried to and failed.
|Single 'VB' Hook trace...(and back to the top of the page)||Single 'VB' Hook trace||Single 'VB' Hook trace|
I had flirted with pike fishing for a while. Although coming across so many at The Rye DykeThe clear as crystal Rye Dyke, with a largest of 13lb, the bug never really bit until after a 1990 Boxing Day pike session, when I became 'hooked' (see what I did there?). From memory we took eight pike between us, my largest perhaps 8lb, the bother's 12lb from 'Jubilee'.
I got broken up on the day - I had a run in 'The Bay', struck, felt a resistance like a bag of compost. Absolutely immovable. I kept the rod up, the line tight and in return came two powerful tugs. After some while with no other movement, I lowered the rod tip, then came a sudden powerful pull that snapped the line like cotton. That was that. One of those moments that makes a prickle run down your neck - for some years I remained convinced there was a monster in there somewhere.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the pike-fishing, just sprats on a shop-trace, so resolved to take it more seriously. I started at the bottom and read some books on the subject. Here is the list:
So there I was, all set for monstrous pike. We can say that.
|I am content to wait. I am well used to it...(and back to the top of the page)||...a very subtil fish||Watch for magpies on your path. Throw salt over your left shoulder. Walk around ladders.||if you will Fish for a Carp, you must put on a very large measure of patience||I am content to wait. I am well used to it.|
The Formulation of the 'Pike Heuristics'.heu...a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.
So having digested the above books and spliced in my limited experience of pike fishing, I formed a set of rules, more a set of 'rough guidelines', as only one thing is certain in angling; that nothing is certain. Opportunities were constrained by severe fiscal limitations and consequently I had a limited roster of waters - Thatcham AA's gravel pits, the Kennet and Avon Canal, Theale Lagoon and Hambridge Lake. So these 'guidelines' are primarily based on those waters. The structure of a strategy.
And lastly. There are very many ways to catch pike - these heuristics and methods worked for me and will work again. However I'm sure there are many equally good systems and methods.
|The Lady of the Stream...(and back to the top of the page)||Thymallus Thymallus||The Lady of the Stream||grayling||The Lady of the Stream||Thymallus Thymallus||grayling||Thymallus Thymallus|
Generally speaking I dead-baited with two rods, reels with 12lb b/s line, never using less that 12lb with a 20lb b/s wire trace. There's a strong argument for 25lb mono in truth. Heavy tackle, but all other things being equal, the point of fishing is ultimately to 'get them out of there, onto here'. 'Sporting chances' to escape with hooks embedded, are not sporting.
I had: a 'rod-pod', a reclining/folding seat, a big landing net, a small rucksack, flask (black coffee for the stowing of), nosh, dead baits (various), a 'rig-bin' (traces for the safe storage of), a handful of re-usable cable ties, a book of cryptic crosswords, a four-colour pen, camera, scales, gag with duct-taped corks over the endsgagThis was 1991 - however, I don't think they were ever used, after being rendered 'corked', but carried them 'just in case'., a large long pair of forceps, two thick leather gardening gloves, tackle box with all the other bits'n'pieces, floats, balsa wood, syringe, bottles of fish oil and so on.
I'm amazed it all went in the bag, looking at that list.
The 'rig bin', a screw-top container with a foam core, is one of the most useful devices ever. It will hold all the traces you will ever need, all made up in the warmth of your front room. Even better there's no 'stabbing yourself with hooks' when rummaging in the bag with cold-numb fingers...
Drinking black filter-coffee all day with nothing to eat can have the affect of making you really, really alert...so taking food is a good idea.
The basic tactic; rod one float-fished a dead-bait, to start with set to about a third of the depth of the water. Sight of the bait matters, so in clear water I didn't worry to much. In coloured, I'd estimate how far the bait can be seen and try different depths.
Rod two was set up with a bottom-fished popped-up dead-bait, 12-18" or so.
Both rigs used oil-injected baits. Baits were 'unusual' where possible. I bought small trout and smelt, used small gudgeon and sprats. Sprats were easily coloured with food-dyes and scented with oils. They're cheap and seem to keep catching - perhaps they mimic the staple roach and rudd. Sardines also worked well. Sardine and salmon oils were the most productive. The much lauded smelt never brought me a run and if they smell of cucumbers, I can't tell.
Herring are supposed to be good, as they are both large, easily got and smelly. Myself, I cannot bear the smell, so used them a few of times without result and then stopped.
I made wire traces with 20lb b/s plastic covered wire. I gave up treble-hooks, never really liked them and their tendency to get caught on everything. I took to 'VB doubles' in various sizes, taking the barb off the larger hook using needle-nosed pliers, flattening it out then a twist usually broke it off. For small baits a single 'VB hook' trace was enough, with the trace threaded trough the body and out the mouth. A small swivel was attached to the trace.
|Single VB Hook Rig|
I preferred copper crimps to any other as the soft metal forms around the trace-wire on crimping, making a stronger join and is less likely to weaken the trace. The gleam of the copper did no harm either. Also, copper can stand more work-hardening that brass, making crimps less likely to crack on compression. I doubled the wire through the crimp one more time than usual, which you can see in the picture. This might mean using a slightly larger crimp than normally needed for the wire size. For larger baits two hooks were used. See the picture below.
|Double VB Hook Rig - it's not meant to be a work of art, just to show how I made traces...|
Notice the second loop of wire though the bottom trace. The idea is the wire loop on the 'rod' side of the trace acts as a wedge reducing the chance of the hook pulling the trace through the crimp. The same crimp arrangement is used for the swivel at the other end. The free end of the wire is cut off flush with the crimp, it's shown for clarity only.
The top hook also has the loop-through so the trace can be one piece of wire. The finished length was not less that 2' and as long as 3'. Enough to go round a big pike twice.
These traces allowed an instant strike. Pike generally pick up dead baits cross-ways in their mouth. With one or two-hook rigs, I waited a few seconds to ensure the bait is well held, using this time to slowly retrieve any slack in the line and then strike firmly. I've missed the odd run, I haven't (to date) dropped a fish, but critically, have not had any swallowed baits. A gut-hooked pike is a dead pike.
A digression on how a pike takes a bait. When fishing on the Rye DykeCatching fish from up a tree is 'ahem' interesting., in clear water, pike could be seen and stalked. It was more effective and less likely to scare a fish, to cast past it and two the bait back slowly past the eyeline, not too close, 3-4' was good, then let it drop.
The instructive bit was to watch a pike take a bait. The pike will slowly line itself up on the bait, using the pectoral and anal fins, then gradually getting more and more agitated, the tail starts to waver (a bit like a cat about to pounce), then it will launch at the bait and grab it. It's a pounce, no mistake about that. You get a flick of the head sometimes, then the fish remains fairly still and chomps a bit. Which is where you strike...if you leave it a while it will, with a few chomps, move off a distance. This is the first 'run' at the end of which a pike will turn the bait to swallow, if a fish bait.
Anyhoo, for the float-fished bait, the main line went through a link-swivel, the float was attached to the link-swivel, usually a small loaded stick and a plastic bead and braided-line stop-knot was used to set the depth. In this way it was easy to change floats, depth or to a bottom-fishing rig. Plus no weak points on the main line.
• 2016: I'd strongly recommend using a bite-alarm for any dead-bating or live-baiting for pike, even if float-fished. It's easy to drift off and miss a take, then you have a deep-hooked pike. 99/100 times you'll see the float go, but the bite-alarm will make sure the 100th time isn't a dead pike.
• 2019: I've evolved my trace making since I wrote this - the basic form remains unchanged with two hooks - but I tie the bottom hook on using a 'knotless' knot, put a touch of waterproof cyanoacrylate on the knot, pull it snug and put clear heat-shrink over the shank and eye. I then do the same with the second hook, at the appropriate distance from the first. I still use 'VB' doubles, but equally often use two single hooks, generally red-flashed stout pattern 'sea hooks' or for small pike, two size 10 red nymph hooks or size 8 red drop-shot hooks.
For the bottom-fishing rig, the trace was attached directly to the main line. Thin slivers of balsa wood were put inside the bait to make it float (since 1991, this is considered to be a bad idea but luckily you can buy special bits of balsa with eyes in them for attaching to the main). I preferred balsa to foam, as it's biodegradable, cheap, model shops sell cheap packs of odd cuts, and it can be whittled to the right size for the bait. Balsa does absorb water and the buoyancy will change. I would pinch a swan-shot or two onto the trace just above the swivel (or further up sometimes). Check the bait actually floats before casting... Every time you reel it in, check it is still floating. The wood gets wet, the bait start off with air in it, it leaks oil and so on.
Chuck both baits in (did I say chuck? I meant 'cast' obviously), opposite directions is sensible. Let the float drift, it almost certainly will, it'll cover more water. After twenty minutes slowly reel in the bottom bait about a third of the distance (we called this 'enticing'), the bait will bob along about a foot from the bed. The few moments after reeling in a popped-up bait will sometimes see a real slammer of a bite, be ready for it! Bite indicators can get flipped out of your fingers - my bite indicators were champagne corks with a plastic covered paper-clips glued into a slot in the top and painted with a wide band of fluorescent orange. Swan-shot could be pushed into holes in the bottom to increase the weight. They floated and were easy to find after striking.
Always retrieve pike baits slowly, with pauses, you'd be surprised how often that works. When I'd fished out the swim, 45-60 minutes or so, I tied the rods to 'pod' with the re-usable cable-ties and moved to another swim.
The crossword book is for those periods you are sat waiting for a run. The four-colour pen is just for fun. Well it worked for me.
For small to medium sized waters this allows you to cover a lot of water in a day's fishing. While no method is infallible, after a certain amount of time on a water, you start to discern a pattern - certain swims and areas produce more pike than others. Some never produce a fish. This may be for a number of reasons, but I would think that features and food are at the bottom of the patterns. It is worth varying the time of day on swims. There are patterns that favour some swims at dawn and dusk and others in the middle of the day. For example the good 'double' lower down the pageA fine brace of pike, if not finely photographed. were taken near a reed-bed at the east end of 'Long Lake'. While runs were rare during the day, at dusk small fish movement by these reeds would increase and the pike would move in to feed on them. On this lake that was the swim to fish at the end of the day.
I would regard these two fish as 'prowlers', going by the reports of catches along the northern bank and the south east corner. You could even speculate on a 'regular' route. You'll certainly figure out where the 'lurkers' tend to be with this peripatetic method - 'prowlers' will often turn up in the same places, as a good place to ambush a food source, is a good place to ambush a food source, whatever your inclination as a pike. How do you tell them apart? Good question. It would help if they wore little pike T-shirts with 'Born to Prowl' or 'Born to Lurk' on them, but they don't. Pity.
My belief is that fishing a water and studying it is the best way to come by this knowledge. You can learn from other pike-anglers, even those that have one or two swims and stuck to them..."Well it's a good swim isn't it?". If you can find out when 'Mr Static' catches, you can often work out how/where/when to intercept the fish. While on the subject of information, pike gossip is the most distorted ever, with tales of monsters all over the place.
|just a hook...(and back to the top of the page)||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...||...and a loaf of bread||just a hook...|
Before we go any further I would advise anyone new to piking to get an experienced pike angler to fully explain and demonstrate the technique below. Remember - pike are a very delicate fish and will not withstand rough handling. Treat all pike gently and with care.
I fish with VB Doubles, with the barb flattened, never more than two and often only one. These are much easier to remove and do not tend to tangle in the net. I strike fairly immediately on getting a take, so have seldom (no example comes to mind) deep-hooked a fish and often, especially with single hooks, the hook sets in the jaw 'scissors'. Then all you need is a good grip with the forceps and tweak it out.
Anyhoo. It's like this:
You need an unhooking mat.umThis was 1991 - mats were rare and certainly not on everyones' minds. Times have changed. Essential are 12" forceps, wire cutters, a 'deep throat disgorger', 6" forceps plus a pair of long-nose pliers. Unhooking mat. A pair of thick leather gardening gloves...
After netting the fish, cut the line a foot or two above the trace. It's easier all round.
Put the pike on the mat and lay it on its back. The most convenient thing is to kneel over the fish, one leg either side. This supports and prevents it thrashing around. Carefully slide a gloved finger under the gill cover and carefully move the finger towards the front of the jaws. You must avoid any contact with gill rakers. Pull the lower jaw upward gently. As you lift, the pike's mouth will open allowing you to see the hook(s). Using forceps in the other hand remove the hook(s). I find that forceps are not really the best things to use - they are not the best tool to get a good grip on a hook and nine times out of ten try use the pliers first.
You'll need to bend forward and peer upside-down into the maw of the beast. It's a bit odd, but it's the best way.
I keep gloves on both hands myself. If necessary use the wire cutters to cut any hooks or the trace. No trace is worth the pike's life, cut it into bits to remove hooks faster if need be. Get the fish back into the water as soon as possible.
• 2016: I believe pike don't react well to capture however carefully they are handled, so if you must weigh them, get on with it and don't dilly about taking endless trophy shots. I'm of the opinion that multiple pike captures often kill the fish or traumatise it into starvation - I've no evidence for this, only the slow decline of pike numbers in enclosed waters where regular fishing takes place.
|Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of...(and back to the top of the page)||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.||Hook, eyed, fishing for the use of.|
I stopped keeping the 'Pike Diary' on the 23rd October 1994. Having fished for five weeks with changes of venue and methods, I had already landed twice as many fish (ten) as the previous year. I went to Hambridge several more times, catching at least a fish a session, but none bigger than 10½lb, despite covering most of the lake at one time or another looking for the traditional alleged monster. About half of the fish caught in this lake came from the enclosed arm of the water on the south bank.
Pike fishing went on however and whenever I've caught one, on purpose, accidently, or just seen or noted something pike related, I've made a note. So, here's the list, which reaches way back to 1976, when I caught my first pike:
1976. The Rye Dyke, the First Pike. The first time I ever fished the Rye Dyke was with the brother on a frosty and foggy December day. The water was atypically tea-coloured, not that we knew and we'd got centre-pins for Christmas, the current BIG THING. We fished with worms next the boating-pool and in the swim on the downstream side of the tree, we had gently cast lobs into the murk, new 'pins on, some bobbin on the line.
Then I had a 'twitcher' and slowly drew in my worm to find a 3lb jack-pike hanging loosely onto the bait. It let go and Cheshire catted. I cast again and it happened again and the third time in hope, it came lightly hooked to the net (a really rubbish folding trout net kind of deal). All fish are good fish. Never occurred to me to actually strike. Now I come to think of it that must have been my first pike ever.
1977. The Rye Dyke. Jack Piking. The Rye Dyke, as intimated elsewhere, had more jack pike than average. At least two-and-a-half thousand more or so it seemed. The water was unusually clear that perhaps it was just they were that much more visible. Anyhoo...
It was relatively easy to catch jacks - especially on purpose - so I evolved some simple tackle and a method that caught dozens up to 3lbs and a few over that (just the one 'double' though). The 'rig' was simplicity, an 18" wire trace of 6lb or 8lb 'Elasticum' wire, with a single large long-shank No.6 fly hook at the business end and a swivel at the 'line end'. Both the hook and the swivel were attached by twisting the tag end of the wire around the standing part for about 3", then winding the tag end with the main body of the wire about 6-8 times. I was helped by having access to very high-quality end-cutters allowing me to trim the wire ends absolutely flush. A further refinement was the careful re-shaping of the hook-point to reduce the barb's 'tang' in size until it protruded barely more than the diameter of the hook's wire, to ensure it penetrated easily.
This seems crude but it was all you needed. Bait was a bunch of worms, the more the better, hence the long-shank hook. If one wanted more casting weight, then a few shot pinched on the wire would suffice. If the water was clear, which it generally was, then you stalked from swim to swim looking for the fish. On spotting one, while keeping low and behind the fish if at all possible, you cast well past and over the fish, then quietly reeled the bait back, past Esox L.'s sharp end, but two-three feet from it, close enough for Jack to see the worms and far enough away not to spook him. Usually. Then you let the bait fall to the bottom, just as it passes the snout...
Now, you wait and watch. You might have to wait 5-10 minutes, but usually, the pike will slowly tilt until the body is angling down towards the bait. The rear fins will agitate slowly, edging the fish nearer and finally with a short lunge it will grab the bait, sometimes accompanied with a slight twist of the body. The flash of white from the gill covers and under the chin, gives you firm indication of a pick-up. You give it a few seconds, while the fish chomps to itself, literally no more than five seconds, to ensure it has really got the bait, they do miss sometimes, then strike.
If the water was cloudy, you put on a self-cocking float and set the depth to a bit over the water's depth, a roughly uniform three feet at the broad end of the water, then went from swim to swim giving it half an hour or so in each one. Each swim had banks of thick weed and many had trees with branches trailing in the water, all great hiding places for the pike. This broader shallow end of the Dyke was more productive, with the last 25 yards by the sluice gate good as well. The deeper and narrower section did not produce as well and it may well be no coincidence that most of the biggest pike I spotted were in that area.
Three times when fishing for jack, I caught roach of 2lbs - twice with the wire-trace rig described above, once described hereTo be ruthless with myself, the scales were rough and they were probably 'near enough', so they'd have been anywhere between 1¾lb and 2¼lb. And probably nearer the former. and once when float fishing in coloured water.
You can learn a lot about pike if you fish regularly like this in clear water. Firstly and most obvious, is to keep quiet, low and behind the fish. The prey would be off if disturbed. Secondly, the larger the fish, the easier it spooked. You could make a real hash of getting a bait to a 1½lb pike and still catch it. A bad cast to a 5lb fish and it usually became a missed opportunity. I noted also, that smaller fish leave faster - a small jack will when spooked often dart off. A larger fish will amble off. Really good ones will fade into the background like the Chesire cat, but with a slightly more murderous smile.
It was much harder to stalk very large pike. I almost never got close enough to cast. They also kept further from the bank for the most part. Often pike were in rough pairs, sometimes visibly so, even when you could see only one fish, another was often lurking close by. Several times I cast to a fish, only to have another unseen pike take the bait, often not even noticed until the flash of white as the bait was taken. This underlines the effectiveness of their mottled markings as camouflage.
Occasionally the pike would miss the bait on the lunge. You could usually get away with stealthily withdrawing it and re-casting. If a pike hovered around without taking it, giving it a nudge would usually help, the movement would get its attention.
I further refined the end-tackle by creating a traces from three strands of 7lb Perlon, plaited together. The idea was pinched and modified from a section in a book about fly-fishing for pike. I made these by taking three lengths of the Perlon about three feet long and using a bulldog clip tacked onto a bit of wood, plaited the three strands together for about 2", about 4" from one end on the strand. Then, while holding the ends carefully, I doubled over this short plaited section and then combined the three short strand with the three long strands in pairs, then plait those pairs together for about an inch, creating a loop. Leave one short strand out of the plait, plait a quarter inch, repeat twice and then plait the remaining three long strands until the plaited section is about 14" long.
Yes it took some time. It helps to have good light and also to put a swan shot on each of the ends, much like bobbins in lace making. When you have the length you need, put a blob of nail varnish on it to stop it unravelling. I then whipped over the 'eye splice' with fine silk thread, covering the loose ends and gave this whipping a couple of coats of polyurethane varnish, which is flexible when dry.
The long-shank hook was whipped onto the other end. The braided link was put through the hook-eye from the 'point' side of the hook and the three tag ends of the braided section were tied into overhand-knots. The trace was then whipped onto the hook using fine silk, starting at the eye end and working down, the overhand knots preventing any possibility of the trace pulling through the whipping. The finished whipping was about 1" long. Then two coats of polyurethane varnish. I only ever made three of these and caught many pike on them (and a 2lb roach plus more than a few perch). I never lost a fish to a 'bite-off' and often changed the hook a few times, as after a dozen fish the whipping tended to look a bit 'worked over'.
This method accounted for dozens of pike from ½lb up to 13lb. Why on earth we never graduated to sprats and other dead-baits and tried for larger fish I do not know. We saw many much larger pike, several, which with hindsight, must have been 20lb+. These days, I'd be inclined to pop the worms off the bottom and put a few slivers of red tinsel on the hook. Although so many trips here skew the figures, as it were, I have probably have caught more pike on worms that any other bait. It is true to say I never go pike fishing without a few...if you see a fish, it might take worms even if not really feeding.
1977. The River Thames, Henley. The brother and myself were dropped in Henley on a day out for the parents and knowing of the free fishing (so much of that has since 'vanished'), were hovering upstream of the bridge on the right bank gazing with cautious intent at a mooring pontoon and a nice man said we could fish from it. So we did. We more or less blanked...himself nabbing a jack-pike on an early afternoon ennui spinning session, a 4g Gold Droppen must have practically landed on the unlucky thing.
Funny thing - in 2002 I went on one of those clichéd team building week-ends and discovered we had (back then) parked ourselves on one of the Leander Club's pontoons and permission had been granted by a passing member. The best thing about the 'team building' was meeting two members of the 2000 Olympics Ladies Quadruple Sculls team, who took Silver. I took away from that that they practised close finishes, as at that level they all are. Interesting and charming, I am ashamed to say I cannot recall the ladies' names. The rest was predictable bo11ocks of course but I have still got the shirt, which was good quality. Small world.
1977. Alasticum Wire. I was, once fired up by the first pike, enthused; so I decanted from High Wycombe library a couple of 'big books about pike fishing' and ascertained that one must use Alasticum and then made a variety of lethal looking traces for fishing with monstrous baits for even more monstrous pike, none of which ever got out of the tackle box as (a) I knew of no monstrous pike and (b) had no means for fishing for such. However, Dyke pike were still pike and although it is a mystery to me why sprats did not feature more heavily in our fishing at the time, large numbers of lobs did, and caught many pike.
Alasticum wire was single strand, could be stretched slightly, so one might 'pull' bends out of the wire after use, it didn't rust and was available in 6lb to 'Loch Ness' strengths. However if it kinked, it was considerably weakened, but so is any wire. Making traces of doubled and twisted Alasticum helped to avoid this potential doom.
The traces for such evolved to a pinnacle that consisted of a single size 6 long-shank low-water salmon hook, with the barb ground down about two-thirds, to ease both the insertion of said hook and its removal, this then being connected to a 12-18" of best Alasticum. Connection was simple - the wire went through the eye, around the shank a few times, back around towards the eye and back through it from the other direction to the standing part. Then twist the two ends together for about an inch, then wind the tag end around the standing part half a dozen times (which may need to be under strain to facilitate neat windings) and then trim the tag-end off flush, which was easier with electronics' end-cutters than anything else.
At the other end a loop was made in the same way with a small swivel in it. That was the whole rig. None remain, but here's one...along with some long obsolete Alasticum wire, which these days serves as the best wire for making float eyes.
|The Rye Dyke Rig, kinda.||Alasticum Wire; I retained two spools, 8lb, 10lb, from way back and bought two spools about 6 years ago, for making float eyes.|
November 1990. This doesn't happen to me. On a cold day when the mood struck, I took a spinning rig to Theale Lagoon (RDAA water) on a day ticket. I say 'spinning rig', that's code for "the seven foot glass rod, the Cardinal 40 loaded with 12lb line and a big box of lures and some snap-link wire traces".
This is a huge expanse of water and when parked, headed south from the car park and after a longish strand of slender-beached 'shore' of about 100 yards (this doesn't seem quite right, there is no sea-weed smell ), there is a small inlet with trees around it. Having had no luck with 'Droppens' et al up to this point, I stood at the end of the inlet and cast hopefully down the narrow channel. No result. I moved around to the far side towrds the open end and first cast got a 3lb pike, which hit the lure almost as it landed. This is normally how I catch a pike when spinning, by landing the lure on its head by accident.
Result. One more than usual. Further casts yielded nothing and moving onto the next swim, a patch of gravelly shore, cast out for a 2lb pike. My head span (no pun intended). Returned EL jnr. and cast out. And got another.
And returned it and cast out and got another. And so on. In ten minutes I banked seven more pike, all around 2-3lb. Then the takes went - maybe I'd caught them all. Either way that was my lot for the day. I never caught another pike from either of those two swims. Come to think of it I never caught another pike in Theale Lagoon either, although I saw a few. Oh well.
I'm pretty sure that I haven't caught that many pike (eight) on lures in the rest of my fishing life, never mind on one day...in fact that's still the most pike I've caught in one session anywhere.
• P.S. (2014), I've just thought about that again, and I can think of two caught spinning otherwise...a laughably small pike caught on a great big wobbler and a pike nabbed from the Kennet one evening on a 'Droppen' lure.
October 1992. The below fish, a smallish one was caught on the Kennet and Avon Canal at Monkey Marsh swing bridge, after it pestered the roach I was catching. Single sprat, single VB hook rig. If I bothered to take pike-tackle, this spot reliably produced a pike a session (probably the same one) to a 'sleeper rod', so quite why I never went the whole hog and fished for pike I have no idea. I like this picture as you can see the forceps and the bonkers rainbow shoelace that in theory prevent them getting lost. It must have worked as I still have the forceps and the shoelaces. The army rucksack is still going after seventeen years and you can see the 'Cardinal 40' attached to the carp rod.
|A K&A canal Pike|
This year, trying very hard for pike, I decided one briskly windy day to spin around Jubilee Lake, on the basis that keeping on the move might locate some swims with pike potential away from the usual spots. I am, however, the world's worst lure fisher - having had very little success. Even varying depths lures and covering a lot of water, I do not have much success...
Anyhow - right around the back of the lake there was a small concrete platform jutting into the water, a leftover from gravel extraction days. Spinning off that in shallow water, I got a hit on a 8g bronze Droppen and after a lively but short tussle, netted a 3lb tench. Yes really. Hooked in the mush too. I have not heard of anyone else doing this, so if you have let me know. Weird.
Didn't get a pike all day though. As mentioned, not an expert lure-fisher...
December 1992. Ice Fishing. It was one of those days that you have to be slightly mad to go out. Luckily I am. It was bitter, around -4°C to -5°C but no wind mercifully. When I turned up, the lakes were frozen and although I knew of one or two patches where the ice would be thin, it looked iffy for sport. I made my way to 'Pike Pit' with the one short rod for about 11am. The grass was hoar white and crunched under my feet and picking a swim in the deeper water I went to find a branch to crack the 1" thick ice. I found a handy ten foot 'stick', 2-3" thick and smashed the ice, about half-way up the lake where the water would be ten feet under the tip. I stuck with one rod and in deference to the hole size used my 7ft solid glass thing and 12lb line. One rod on the pod and a 'dayglo' orange cork with a paper clip wedged in the end. By the time I'd tackled up a thin film of ice had set over the hole and was crinkling slightly, like cellophane, with the slight movement of the water.
I stuck with a sardine, popped up with balsa and weighted down with 2×SSG on the swivel end of the trace, dropped the fish by the far edge of the hole and watched the bait glide down into the dark water. Ten minutes later I was frozen and the line had frozen to the rings. I opted to keep warm and so walked up and down behind the rod in ten yard tracks. Hands in pockets, keeping the blood moving all the while watching the bobbin, stopping every five minutes to snick the line free of the ice. The air had an edge at the back of the throat like the bright strip on a recently honed carbon steel knife. After 40 minutes (I'd set myself an hour in each swim), the bobbin jerked, as the ice's hold on the line was snapped, then slid up toward the butt. I picked up the rod, snapped over the bale arm, tightened up and struck and got a lively 5lb pike which was outgunned by a good margin. Netting was a trial with the net frozen stiff, barely softening in the black sub-zero water, but with the Esox jnr. unhooked and returned I felt the day was already worth the pain. Cracking.
Baited back up and off again, after a cup of rationed hot stuff. Crunch crunch crunch crunch. Twenty minutes pass and I'm gobsmacked to get a repeat run and after a short tussle get a 3lb fish, more outgunned than before, but a fish. Two up. Well I never. I re-bait, but this time 40 minutes pass, with no movement, except my measured pacing and this time, I pick the stick up and walk thirty yards down and make another hole. I moved the frosted pod and tackle down and drop the sardine into the new hole. More coffee and pacing and 30 minutes pass and I get another knock and a fast streak of the bobbin and I tighten into a larger fish which gives a good account, especially when you consider the short rod and the limits to the angles I can use due to the ice. More frozen stiff netting reveals a good fish of 8lb, which make this one of the better days I've ever had on these waters. Sadly, 40 more minutes pass, with the ice now re-freezing more quickly than before and I opt for a dart at the point in 'Long Lake' where the water from Jubilee drains in, which should be clear enough to fish. The added benefit, I told myself as I made my way along the hard ridged frozen mud and stiff reeds, breath hanging in the air as I pass, is that the walk will warm me up. It did. A bit.
The ice here tapers to a knife edge on the rim of the pool left free around the outlet and I slip my sardine under the edge of the ice for the fourth time. I'm cold even so and only the prospect of another fish is keeping me interested, with the grey grim early afternoon twilight announcing a dip to even further below. Ten minutes later I get a run and a 3lb pike. Wow. Okay, one last cast then and extra coffee now the end is in sight.
Ten minutes of silent pacing in the alley of trees and my brother turns up to chuckle, although less so when I mention four fish. We watch the bobbin together and when it moves after another ten minutes or so, I have to make a few yards to the rod. This was not 3lb, 5lb or 8lb, it streaks hard to the right and I have the rod under the water curved right over. After ten yards it reverses and we see a ghost under the ice, five yards out, pass us going right to left. This established the pattern, with me having the power to halt the runs after a period but no angle to change them and the fish made several runs under the ice, a grey-blurred missile of substantial size, gradually getting nearer the hole edge and after a perhaps half a dozen runs, it subsides into the sibling wielded net, a 17½lb fish which worked hard for its freedom, to no end.
Bro, nipped of for the camera of our mother (as it happened) and here are the best pictures in a fading light. I've always wanted to do it again, but that was the last hard freeze while I was in Thatcham, but I wait in hope. Naturally I had to endure the 12 months of sarcastic remarks about ordinary bank fishing being too easy. A challenge is important...JAA's size ten welly as well...in case you're wondering why I blur out my own face, you do know they have software which can look for your picture on the internet, don't you? [In 2020 there is an 'app' for that...]
|The 17½lb pike, caught through a hole in the ice on the seven-foot glass rod, ideal for the job.||The 17½lb pike with JAA. Behind is the south-east corner of Jubilee lake and you can just see the outlet from that lake in the left lower corner of the picture.|
|The 17½lb pike with size 10 wellies for size comparison. Frozen toes (JAA for the enduring off) enclosed.||This random picture taken from the same reel of film, shows the bottom half of the 7' glass rod leaning on the table for some reason. If you're eagle-eyed and have a good imagination, on the table top there are spools of 'Perlon' and also a Cardinal Bronco reel. You'll need less than eagle-eyes to spot the odd bottle of booze. I disclaim all knowledge of the pizza box and the lighter fuel.|
This last random picture taken from the same reel of film, shows the bottom half of the 7' glass-fibre rod leaning on the table, for some reason. If you're eagle-eyed and have a good imagination, on the table top there are spools of 'Perlon' and a Cardinal Bronco reel. You'll need less than eagle-eyes to spot the odd bottle of booze. I disclaim all knowledge of the pizza box and the lighter fuel.
February 1993. That first '20'...weighed in at 20½lb and was taken on a float-fished sardine at a depth of three feet, about ¾ of the way up Long Lake on the North Bank. I was using a Fuji-ringed Winfield Specimen Fisher with a fixed reel-seat I had fitted, not a bad rod at all, with an old Cardinal Bronco loaded with 12lb Perlon and a two-VB-hook trace.
It didn't show much fight after the first run and I recall being stunned by the size of the fish, which was not at all consistent with the feeble fight. It was windy and mild and I cannot remember whether I caught any others that day (there is nothing in the diary). Luckily, the decent TAA committee member come by (on the way back from a match) to help take pictures and weigh the fish. None of the other committee members could be bothered to come over to record or witness it. Thanks lads.
I would not hold a pike like that these days, but at the time I was rather pleased with the opportunity to have some snaps for posterity. 'Long Lake' is in the background, it is Peg 68, and also in view are my old army rucksack, chair and the dead-bait carrier-bag. Down the avenue of trees looking east you can see a bit of picket-fence and that is where the 17½lb fish came out from under the ice.
|20½lb Pike on float fished sardine||20½lb Pike on float fished sardine|
15th March 1993. The 1992-93 Season Pike Fishing Review. I had messed about a bit and was still evolving my method and learning about the subject (never ending...) but this season I had a score of fish, which worked out better than one fish per session, with a 17½lb fish and a first 'twenty' @ 20½lb, plus two 10½lb fish, which given the suspicious lack of 'the same eye' and with 'both' taken from the same corner of Pike Pit, leads me to think it was the same fish. I was 'popping-up' baits, using attractor oils and had swapped to 'VB double' hooks. So far, so hoopy.
This season was good enough to encourage me to take pike fishing more seriously, so fired with enthusiasm I headed for the 1993-4 season...there were other hobbies in the summertime, mostly involving a cricket bat and only in December did I get round to picking up the pike tackle again.
October 1993. The Kennet and Avon Canal. The future Mrs AA had moved in and the canal was, shift-work permitting, a source of evening walks and we would often stroll downstream past the odd ghost of Colthrop village and if heading upstream, I would sometimes take a spinning rod (Hah! The Mk.II Pool-Cue) and to my surprise, even caught the odd perch and small pike, for the most part just below or above the newly restored grass-banked Monkey Marsh Lock.
4th December 1993. TAA Gravel pits. I went spinning for pike, managing just a single 1lb pike caught on a whopping 'buzzer' for the whole day. How the little devil even managed to get the hook in its mush I'll never know. Well, I have mentioned my spinning expertise.
5th December 1993. The 17lb and 20lb Brace. The weather on this December day was cold (3-4°C) but clear with a moderate westerly wind. I'd had a grim start to my piking this year and was almost worn down to giving in (or finding waters further afield). But I persuaded myself to pop out for the afternoon, tried an hour and a half or so in the NW corner of Jubilee with no result. At 3:30pm I moved to the NE corner of Long Lake.
I put on a floated kipper bait (really - I took a kipper fillet, folded it in half, sewed up the open ends and attached it to a 2 × 'VB hook' rig) fished about three feet down drifted up against the reeds at the end of the lake and a popped-up sprat cast out and to my right. There was probably about 30 yards between the baits. I settled in for the last hour and the wavelets' right-to-left foxed my eyes and every time my gaze switched from the orange stick in the reeds to the bobbin on the sprat bait, the ground rippled and appeared to travel under my feet.
At 4:15pm after almost 30 minutes of giddy watching and waiting, the float stabbed once, sharply enough in the gathering gloom to make me think I'd imagined it, then popped out of sight. I hate it when that happens. Imagining an 8lb fish, a regular out of this corner, I tightened and struck firmly but not wildly, resulting in a large swirl near the reeds, putting paid to the 8lb pike in my mind's eye and the carp rod arced over. The fish took a short run away from me along the east bank past the reeds and after 20 yards wallowed, there were no more long runs, but the fish was sulky and un co-operative to the net and as the net went under, in the corner of my eye the bobbin on the other rod jigged, jerked and line started paying out. Now that I really hate.
So this is how it went. I landed the first pike, noted it had '20lb potential'. I put the rod down, put my foot on the net handle, closed the bale arm on the second rod and struck the fish, 'not small', I noted as the 2lb Winfield curled over. I held it long enough to be sure of the hooking and opened the bale again. Took the first fish into the long grass, unhooked it (mercifully, bottom hook in the scissors 'VB doubles'). Back to the other rod, net in hand, expecting to have nothing. I tightened up, discovered the fish on and moving steadily, but not urgently, 'away', so battened down and the fish increased pressure and so did I. After thirty yards it ground to a halt then reversed tacked towards me and just as I imagined a fierce battle over the reed beds' sanctuary, it glided towards me and into the net. Handy.
With a measure of calm descending with the dusk, I weighed both fish, with the 'kippered' Esox going 21lb and its second-in-command going 17¾lb. I took pictures, but an old film camera and a flash have made a less than perfect job, but still beating my mind's eye. I had no other run all day and certainly have not had such a good brace of fish since. The right hand picture shows the larger of the two, with the tackle box and flask to give some idea of scale. I suspect that they might have been the same two fish as caught on separate occasions given the similarity of the sizes. I was chuffed.
|21lb & 17lb pike on float fished kipper||21lb pike kippered|
12th December 1993. Pike Pit, Jubilee and Long Lake. Cold day, wind was S/SW, raining. I started at 11am with 1½ hours on the Pike Pit in the corner by the East end, with a floated kipper and a popped up sardine. Without a run by 1pm, I moved to the NW corner of Jubilee and swapped the sardine for a sprat, to fish the water out on the retrieve. The rain had eased off though. After no run, except one from a careless crayfish, I moved to Long Lake.
|Piking the Pike Pit. Swim 3 I'd guess and the right hand rod is the 'Winfield Specimenfisher'.||Piking on the east end of Long Lake. This was a good swim, but it didn't produce if you were in it. If you fished it from the north bank it worked out better.|
...where I continued to have 'no runs' for the rest of the day.
19th December 1993. Jubilee Lake and Pike Pit. I elected to fish out the swims at the back of Jubilee, to see if there were any productive swims. I popped up sardine and sprat in the shallow water, had one fast take around mid-day, which not only yielded no fish, but left the sprat curiously unmarked. Not convinced a pike did that. I spent the last hour in the corner of Pike Pit, where at 4:15pm I received a tentative nibble on the sardine, which was a crayfish
26th December 1993. Pike Pit. The traditional 'Boxing Day' thing. Temperature around 0°C, wind W/NW. Water gin-clear. Some fringes of ice on the water. Myself and brother fished around the entire Pike Pit during the day. Tried sprats, sardines, mackerel, kipper, floated, popped up, ledgered, all with the same result (zippo, nada, natch).
27th December 1993. Jubilee Lake and Pike Pit. Hard frost, no wind, some sun shine. Water still clear. Started out on the back of Jubilee, moved onto Long Lake mid-way up the north bank and finished at the east end of Pike pit. As previously every combination of the four baits were tried, with no runs. I noted the ice patterns on Jubilee, in case they indicated depth variations or springs to try at a later date.
28th December 1993. Pike Pit and Long Lake. Weather as for the 27th. We fished Pike Pit for a couple of hours and I wind-drifted a dead-bait the whole length of the pit at varying depths, along with a foam filled swim-feeder of sardine oil...no result but for a big oil slick. We moved to Long Lake, where the water was gin-coloured and spent the second half of the day trying various swims on the north bank. One crayfish was caught in the NE corner and a tentative run came mid-afternoon, which may have been a fish and may not.
30th December 1993. Theale Lagoon. Brother and self went there for the day. It rained pretty much all day and faced with a vast water and pretty well no knowledge, we went for the tree covered area on the north side, beyond the yacht club. In very heavily weeded water the bother brThe grammar checker suggested 'brother' then I thought, "Nah, 'bother' is more accurate". had a single pike about 3lb. We saw others, in the next swim up there were several decent pike so I spent an age gently casting and retrieving single sprats past their noses, once only a pike snapped at the bait, leaving the sprat with a line of needle holes across its flank. This was the best I managed, so we retreated to the west bank where there is a cutting (mentioned previously) but we had nothing further to add to our day. Still raining as well.
22nd January 1994. Jubilee Lake and Long Lake. Spent the whole day dead baiting on the back of Jubilee and the south bank of Long Lake, with no results. I varied baits and methods and fishing each swim out for an hour. Monday and Tuesday produced a 12lb and 20lb fish for "Zen".
30th January 1994. Jubilee and Long Lake. ...and again got not a run. I gave up with the weather and some details at this point, it's amazing I persisted really. 'Zen' had a 9lb fish from the NE corner of Long Lake (a good swim).
15th March 1994. The 1993-4 Pike Fishing Season. A dire return on the hours put in, you can see I gave up in February...the pike fishing in general had tailed off in the lakes and also my personal gods appeared to be against me as well, as recorded above. In summary I caught five pike this season. OK, one great double, but phew. I elected to try other waters next year, did some reading and as a result made a few changes, but not many.
27th September 1994. Hambridge Lake. Having got a membership of RDAA - and took a 9½lb pike on a float-fished gudgeon, with salmon oil injected into it. I got distracted by a commotion in the NW corner while trying for a run by the feeder stream on the west bank. I noticed a scattering of fry in the small lagoon in the NW corner. Aha. If looked just as if as if something was lunging out from under weed cover and scattering fry. I'd already had one fish about 5lb, and knew a bit about stalking pike, from the DykeThe straight faced Rye Dyke and its pike days - so rigging up a small popped up dead-bait on a single hook VB traceThe terribly sensible VB hook and trace, I cut inland and sneaked around to the inlet, and doing my best impression of a commando (not the same as 'going commando'), made my way to the edge of the water and watched from behind a handy tree.
Another lunge and scattering confirmed the fish was still there. I assumed the fish was broadly speaking facing out of the weed and toward myself and the prey, gave it five minutes to get back in and worked myself around behind the head end of the fish and cast past it with my bait and letting it sink I retrieved to somewhere in front of the assumed fish. I waited...and waited. Fifteen minutes ticked by. I reeled in my popped up bait with a few turns of the handle and stopped. And waited again...five minutes later, another bow wave and scattering of small stuff. Surely my bait was more interesting? Salmon oil and all? After another 10 minutes I recast as slowly and carefully as I knew. Pretty much the same result, and more lunges confirmed the fish was still present. After another ten minutes, decided my bait was wrong, or the fish was preoccupied, so worked my way into a position to see my intended quarry.
After moving quietly to the entrance of the small inlet (where naturally you'd never be able to get a rod), I saw a blur of movement, a scattering of fry and a common carp around 8-10lb glided to a halt, then after a bit ambled back to it's ambush station under the weed cover. Aaaaaah. So back to the pike then. With hindsight, I could have gone for the smallest sprat I had on a regular trace, but knowing the "rule of cussedness of nature", I'd have hooked a pike and got 'bitten off'...
2nd October 1994. Pike Pit. 1×2lb fish on the SE corner on a float fished smelt. I also missed a take on a sprat while it was being retrieved. This was popped-up off the bottom on a ledger rig, held down by a couple of swan shot at the top of the trace.
3rd October 1994. Long Lake. 1×6lb pike from the SE corner on a float-fished sprat. The bait was drifted right up against the reed-bed. I missed a take where the feeder stream from Jubiliee runs into the lake.
Peering at the gravel by my feet (I would say 'waiting for a bite', but had long since lost hope) I picked out what I thought was an old drilled bullet, but this is solid chalk, cleaned the hole out with a piece of thorn from the blackthorn behind (where I once found a three-piece green glass float-rod, each section broken neatly in half - a bad day for someone) and still wonder how old it is, as the gravel deposit housed some of the oldest inhabitants of the islands (the Mesolithic site some 400 yards off 'Lower Way' is one of the best examples in the country).
|Funny little chalk bead||Funny little chalk bead|
23rd October 1994. Hambridge Lake. On the back arm I had a 2lb and a 10½lb fish on float-fished trout and sardine oil and a 4lb fish on a float-fished sardine oiled sprat. I imagine the double was the same fish as caught on the 16th, going by the same missing eye. As I'd never taken a pike on bottom fished baits here, I'd switched to float-fishing two baits at different depths.
Sitting on the bank under the trees, my attention was taken by an embedded claw-in-profile, so I put down the bic'n'cryptic crosswords and scratched it out. I pick up such things for no good reason and on the same bank earlier in the year, I'd picked another odd fossil that looks for all the world like a Venus fly-trap.
|One certainly a fossil, the other 'maybe'...||One certainly a fossil, the other 'maybe'...|
December 1994. Grantham gravel pit. I spent the week-end with the bother and we went for a day's fishing at a gravel pit near Grantham, I forget the name. The water was large, the weather was clear, bright and cold, to the point of ice forming on the line. We went around the back of the lake on the basis of having some shelter from the wind, which was slight. As we knew nothing else about the water, that was as good a reason as any.
The water was gin clear, so I opted to pole fish as far out as I could and put out a popped-up sprat on a slider-float around 30 yards out and even then I could see the bait on the bottom in water deeper than a rod-length.
Stap me if only half an hour later, away went the float and after a lively tussle I netted a well conditioned pike of around 12lb. This boded well. Or not. That was it for us both all day - neither of us even had a bite after that on regular tackle or dead-baits. With hindsight we should have roved and dead-baited, we'd have been warmer...slightly fortunate, but consider how far away a popped-up bait could be seen in water that clear.
February 1995. The Kennet and Avon Canal. I was fishing the canal one February day, when the canal was coursing like a river. The flood-piking advice in 'Pike Fishing' by Ken Whitehead, is to look for the slightest of slacks and fish those. The only 'slacks' were the tiny indentations at the ends of the concrete lead-in to Monkey Marsh bridge, no more than a notch in the bank. I tried a sprat, lowered carefully into all four in turn - and had one small pike of 3lb or so from the upstream left-hand niche. I was ridiculously pleased with this in the circumstances.
15th March 1995. The 1994-95 Pike season. This season saw me re-vitalised which, given the dire previous season, can only be ascribed to the eternal angling optimism. I kept a diary for the first few weeks of the season and then for some reason stopped, perhaps having conquered the demons of the previous season, I was happy to take things less seriously. Or something. In truth I felt that I wasn't doing a lot wrong, but the waters I fished simply didn't have that many pike to catch.
I continued to put two baits in the water, generally one 'popped-up' and the other float-fished. I still used sprats on occasion, but my favourite and most productive baits were gudgeon and trout, neither native to the waters. I bought the trout, caught the gudgeon myself (probably at Bishop's Green) and both baits were injected with salmon, sardine and tuna oils.
May 1995. The Stream Behind the Pavillion. It was a tiny stream, a drain really, and one week-end there was a pike in it, a couple of pounds perhaps; so I fished it out with a sprat and the seven-foot rod. Just for fun.
A team-mate had a house that backed onto the Kennet and said I could fish it any time I like. Never did. No idea why not, seems silly not to have done.
20th November 2005. Fiddleford Mill on the Stour. A teeny blank. I decided to dust off my pike tackle (and pike fishing in general) with a trip to Fiddleford Mill on the Stour, in several degrees of frost. Time pressed as usual, so arriving at 10am, in expectation of fishing until around 2pm, with the usual Sunday stuff to do on getting home. As I made my way to the water in the weak sunshine, the grass and frozen mud crunched and my breath clouded in the air in front of me. Classic frosty morning and it felt really good to be out in it. I sat myself under the retaining bank of the mill leat with the weir on my right and the sluice on my left. The bank was frozen solid mud and with no sun on this part, it would remain this way until I left.
I set up a couple of dead baits. For reasons best known to myself I neglected to bring other than sprats and sandeels. I went for a ledgered bait toward the overflow of the mill leat and a float fished sandeel, with which I planned to search the water from the weir area "downstream" as it were. I put the floated bait on the 2lb t/c through action, 15lb Powerpro main line and the ledgered on an 11ft 2½lb t/c mid action rod, on 10lb b/s nylon mono. Both baits on a single VB trace rig. After about 45 minutes of floating around, I went to move my ledgered bait and discovered it was snagged solid - so much so I broke it off. Having let the float rig drift, I got that snagged and broke that off as well...
Not good. I decided to take a short coffee break. I reset the ledger rod with a sprat and cast out toward the middle and set the bobbin on the line. I decided on a further coffee and set a sprat to pop up with balsa wood and cast it to my left into the swirling water just downstream from the weir. For an hour nothing happened. I watched the gentle twitching too-and-fro of the bobbin on the rod in the heavier flowing water. I got a knock on the other rod and watching the bobbin travel briskly upwards, tightened into the bait and hit it and for a second thought I had a fish on. The fish metamorphosed into a solid snag. Drat. That's "drat" rhyming with "lugger bit". Just in case, I treated this with circumspection, as the impression of a snag can occasionally be a large fishI'd heard of this, but to have it happen was rum. Yes it can. I kept light pressure for a 5-10 minutes and then returned the rod to the rest for another five. Then I broke off the line, losing the 3rd trace of the day.
|Fiddleford Mill on the Stour||Fiddleford Mill on the Stour||Fiddleford Mill on the Stour|
Ah well. I went for another coffee and re tackled. I had no result by 2pm so called it a day, not dispirited, oddly. Setting out with the intention of fishing a new water, with the majority of my past piking on still water, today's blank was in many ways preparation for the next trip - and partly expected. Here's what I got from it (apart for a nice morning in the fresh air); there were a couple of gents on the far side, who caught a couple of small pike 2-4lbs) fishing in the slacker water, with static bottom fished dead baits, (I'm guessing sardines and mackerel). Some small pike are to be found over there (I've nothing against small pike), which might suggests that if there are any bigger they are wiser, or somewhere else. Also, the current here is not as heavy as you might think (today anyway), but there is a clear need to keep baits of the bottom, to avoid snags, but in the main to present baits where they can be seen. I sort of of knew this already.
While sitting there I mulled over how to do this - I like to float one bait and ledger another, but in this case I thought one way of getting baits to a sensible depth and making them attractive is to float-fish them. I have adapted the looped construction of two-hook traces, to include an extra loop pointing towards the hook end of the trace. This is to be 12-18" from the end hook. To that I'll add a a small disposable ledger weight (or "stones" as I like to call them) to a length of 6lb nylon. The length of this will determine the bait depth and it ought, if dangled below a float set correctly, give me a bait fluttering in the current off the bottom. To ledger I'd turn the rod pod round, putting the rod front end as high as it will go and put the rod butt under the back supports - the rod/line will then be a steep enough angle to keep a paternostered bait fluttering in the current. Bite indication might be interesting....to be tried next time. A useful blank if there is such a thing. On balance I'd rather catch fish.
|Fiddleford Mill on the Stour|
|Christmas Holly by the Marmiteangler||Christmas Holly by the Marmiteangler||Christmas Holly by the Marmiteangler||Christmas Holly by the Marmiteangler|
28th December 2005. Milton Abbey Lake. Esox Carpio. A very cold (-2°C) day and the forecast was clear but cold for the whole day. Nevertheless I was determined to get out even if exposure was an option and having dyed and flavoured my sweet-corn (red, turmeric), I took the usual flask and also another with hot food and set out.
Arriving at the water around 10am, I wondered around to peg twelve thinking that where three channels of the water met might be worth a try, if for no other reason that there is always some flow which will carry the bait scent a good way. I set up both the four-piece Avon and the old carp rod and bunged spam on the carp rod and a red sweet-corn/pepperami cocktail on the Avon. Both sets of tackle on hair rigs and a simple 2 swan shot running ledger (no bolt rigs!). I put on a couple of bite alarms, which allows me to keep hands in pockets or gloves. These are 'Fox Microns', which are good, but have a silly battery size and are WAY TOO LOUD. Even with the LOWEST VOLUME AND PITCH settings. So a happy hour (at home) saw them to bits and the back of the speakers covered with self adhesive foam and also a layer over the holes on the outside of the casing and the sockets on the bottom. Better. I may even put a 'scope on them and modify the speaker drive...or perhaps not.
Sixty minutes later there was not even a sign of a fish and I went for a wonder with the 'shades on to enjoy the clarity of the water - I took the opportunity to scope out the features on the bottom - the most interesting part of which were the clear trails in the leaves on the bottom, showing regular routes for the fish. I spotted pike and perch in the main (and off limits) lake and after following the far bank opposite swim 11, spotted both carp (certainly 15lb+ some of them) and a bunch of good tench (4lb+) under the trees. Both schools hanging mid water motionless. I also spotted one of the larger 'ghosties' having a wander which was encouraging. As fishing from that bank is verboten, I moved to swim 11 and opted to fish each rod about half-way across, working on the basis that late afternoon would see some movement, if there was any. It was that or worms and stalking pike (which I hadn't seen any of on this lake). A nice shiny 'popped up' sprat might have been useful though.
Until one o'clock the sun was out and warmed things through (relatively speaking) and while the temperature did not move over freezing, it was out of the slightest of winds. Even so, the line froze to the rod rings and I needed to tweak the line too-and-fro every ½ hour or so to ensure it was free. Frost hung on all the vegetation, even in the weak sun. I made friends with a 'starving' robin, who could barely fly once stuffed with spam slivers and maggots. The best of uses for old maggots.
|Milton Abbey wintering||Everyone's winter pal...|
Nothing could have tasted quite so good as the hot beans and sausages in the second flask, even better than Christmas dinner. The afternoon passed and despite small roach 'topping' in the middle and one big swirl under the trees with the carp (the red branches in the picture below, tench are out of shot to the right), nothing happened. About 3pm the slightest of tweaks on the Avon made me jump, but nothing developed. To wile way the time I broke spam up into lumps and put it in with the sweet-corn and making it RED (tackle tip - ONLY a few drops of red food colouring are needed for two tins of sweet-corn. NOT a teaspoon full). At 3:15pm I re-baited both rods and added a worm to each bait for luck. More loose feed.
At 4:15, with frost forming on the tackle box and rods, I poured the last cup of coffee and stood up to rock on my heels and warm up a bit before tackling down. While slurping, I noticed the end of the carp rod had taken a strong set to the right. No bleep. Odd. Clucking bell, the line's frozen to the rod. Coffee down, rod up.
Something exploded on the surface of the water and headed fast for the tree on the right. I put on a lot of side strain but it still made 5 yards, but once round the corner, thing gets awkward. Back it came, straight out into the middle, more strain. Back to the right and more side strain. Not huge but feisty The fish took off to the left, went under the other line briefly (bleep!) and then suddenly under the net, a pike, 6lb maybe, hooked right in the scissors. That's red spam and a worm for you. I weighed it in the net and snapped it and put it back. A cracking pike, 6¼lb beautiful colour and condition, more like a river fish. And a longer fight than you normally get. As an aside...the picture shows a hair rig tied (myself) with 10lb Kryston Merlin and a size '8' Raptor and although hooked in the scissors, the braid above the hook is roughened and the hair link, which was inside the mouth when I unhooked it, definitely shows a cut. While I am sure braid has a place in pike fishing, this type of soft braid is clearly not the way to go. (I have in a the past used Milbro 'Black Spider' in 11lb and 15lb b/s without any problems, admittedly only worming for jack pike. aerYep that's an 'anti-eject rig'. I did try them for a bit, but have now abandoned them for good. JAA 2008.
|A fish is a fish...||well knashered...|
Still, a fish is a fish and not a blank...I'm going to start coming for the last hour only I think, as that's when I seem to catch all my fish this winter. Still at -2°C when back at the car. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, 2nd Movement. Just right.
19th March 2006. Milton Abbey Lake. Here pike. Off a-piking we go. There are a few pike in this lake and they are neither huge (a few doubles) nor fished for. Accordingly I took some sprats, 'joey' mackerel, sand-eels and some fish sauce and oils. It's bright and sunny but colder than you think with the air temp being 3°C, but with no thermometer still, I cannot tell you the water temp. Putting on the polaroids I take a walk around the lake, spotting carp and tench on the back pool, but seeing no sign of the roach at this point, which would be better for my purposes. There are a small few patches of coloured water, but not many, and eventually I opt to try a couple of baits in the back pool on Peg 13 and work around the far side of the lake. This plan is based on the most sightings of pike in the lake and also where the most natural cover for a pike can be found.
I put a couple of baits out - float fishing one to the right to try and drift in into the channel there (where pike lay up) an popping the other up off the bottom with a piece of cork to the left. My plan is to cover most of this pool in a couple of hours - which I do with nothing remotely resembling a take. I try to work the baits to the edges (aided by the stiff breeze) where last summers reeds and rushes are collapsed on the water, making good cover for a lurking esox. As the sun is out and the water clear I am constantly looking for signs of the prey, but none so far. Just because you cannot see them doesn't mean there are not there. I move to Peg 11 after a couple of hours.
While moving swims I spot a pike, about 8lbs, under the fallen tree in the aforementioned channel. I'll try anything for a fish, but this one had it's head between the fork of a fallen tree. I could have got a bait to it (just), but I'd would simply never have got it out - even with the 7' rod, which I'd put in the car on a whim. I tried to tempt it into a better position over the next three hours or so, with worms and a small sprat. Nothing doing, it was still there four hours later when I packed up with my free nosh still on the bottom about 4" from it's head. I've seen this before...annoying isn't it? You can get fish like this to snap at a bait jigged carefully in front of it, but with the woodwork the chances of then landing the fish were about zero.
|I like this swim...it's round the back, I think it's 'peg 14''||Looks good for pike. 'looks'...|
It defied all attempts to photograph it, as the camera doesn't have a handy polarising lens feature. I fished out both Pegs 10 & 8, changing the baits to half a mackerel and ended up 90 minutes or so later on Peg 7. I spotted while moving swims the elusive roach giving me some cause for optimism. As before both baits out and after half and hour there was a large disturbance about 15 feet from my float, the real lunge of a feeding fish. I re-cast (a bit further out) and 15 minutes later another lunge and swirl. Promising.
About 10 minutes later a starburst of roach almost opposite me suggested more predator activity, but after another 15 minutes nothing was forthcoming, although I did spot my second pike of the day, a half pounder in the wintered rotted rushes near my swim. While packing up and getting into the car, a further three or four firework scatters of roach made me think seriously about a quick dart in the gloom with a sink and draw sprat, but Sunday evening beckons...
So Rule 2'Catching pike is not that difficult'. Sure, let's say that. not working today, Rule 3'Finding pike can be very very difficult, especially big ones' -- 'check' countered and Rule 21'Any of the rules can be wrong at any time'...er, rules. That's pike fishing. Wish I could have tempted the one in the trees to turn round though...
11th June 2006. Milton Abbey Lake. 'Bugangler', golden rudd and a flotilla of pike...off to Milton Abbey with the 'Bugangler' for a dangle. Peg 7 was picked as it has shade, and with the temperature in the 22-24°C region, shade and hats were the order of the day. I went again for the Avon and simple maggot rig, and as before when neophyte fishing, put a 'chuck and chance' rig of luncheon meat out to the right. Well you never know.
The depth here, as intimated previously, is around 3' in the narrow depression nearer the bank. Setting up a 2 × No 4 crystal and a 6lb rig (tench...) I plumbed the depth and following the pattern of the previous weeks caught a couple of roach doing that. I then handed the rod to the learner, with a couple of rod rests to take the weight. Contrary to expectation the sun remained resolutely behind a cloud for the session, which was a good thing. With some loose fed maggots we had a steady stream of bites, which over the next three hours, four sandwiches, a cereal bar and a banana produced a dozen roach at least, 2 × 8oz perch and two small handsome golden rudd, a rare treat.
Ratty put in an appearance as well, and good to see him. The mink haven't made it here yet, thankfully. Around 12:45 my 'chancer' bite alarm bleeps loud, but if a true run, the hook missed its mark. The bites are tailing off a bit, and what with the 'Bugangler' not doing 'sitting still' we have little wander around to see if we can't catch one of the stick-like small pike that are lurking in the shallows with the roach and rudd around the far side of the spit. In this we fail (although several are spotted and fade quietly into the murky water when spotted, although do add another roach to the bag. Another missed opportunity but for the worms I hadn't dug and taken. But a good bag - piccies of 'Bugangler's Bag' below. We pootle home at 2:00pm to return the fished out 'Bugangler'.
|the 'Bugangler's Bag'||Ratty out for a paddle||the 'Bugangler's Bag' (plus two tench I caught later on)|
Two rounds of sandwiches later I return for a go at Pitch 13, as I saw several VERY large roach there from the earlier wander around. I bait hemp and corn mixed with crushed hemp and maggot with some crushed hemp for luck. Although there are plenty of fish visible, nothing happens, except I get the sun in the mush and on my arms, as the clouds had cleared while I was home, this left me sitting in the blazing afternoon sun. I stick it out against the time it dips below the tree line, but even so with only one missed bite between then and 6:15 I considered returning to the swim of the morning's triumph...but another bite and a half pound roach keeps me going.
As the sun dips, it cools, but the real swim killer is the pike. This female in the picture, with it's back out of the water was circling the pool, with three hopeful male fish in close attendance for a couple of hours - which might have a bearing on the lack of fish. Some pictures of the odd procession...worth a closer look at this, zoom right in. Not something you see every day.
|Amorous pike||Amorous pike||Amorous pike||Amorous pike|
|Amorous pike - worth a closer look at this one||Amorous pike|
Anyhoo, I stuck out the increasingly fishy feeling and with another roach to keep me interested, spotted the tench slipping into my swim and had a fast bite at 7:05pm from a tail I could just see in the murk, which turned out to be a tench at 3½lb (ish) and other at 7:20, at 4lb on the scales. I have one more roach in the next hour and a last tench, 3½lb more or less, at 8:00pm with a roach at 8:10 and headed home. Odd, but another tench fisher around in peg 1, also had a very quiet session, so the morning with the 'Bug' was the pick of the day. You'll not want to see another tench. Oh go on then.
|The best of the tench, at 4lb. Never bad.'|
10th April 2007. Milton Abbey Lake. So much for the Doctor Fish. A short and unremarkable session, the water was an odd colour (it often is here, there is some mineral in the water perhaps, like pools in caves perhaps) but I did manage one tench, which gave a relatively poor account of itself but you can see why. Still, they're all good...and that's what I call a pike bite.
|Milton Abbey||Milton Abbey||That's what I call a bite. So much for the 'Doctor Fish'...|
23rd December 2008. South Drain. Piking without actual pike. A hare-brained and pre-conceived trip, which saw me up with the frozen lark and dibbling sprats under a float in the South Drain. I put 12lb line on a Kingpin and was using an LRH No.3 which is quite pike-like and despite the early morning frost and mist, which is supposed to foreshadow great piking, didn't get a run as such. The South Drain looks the part with said frost, ground mist and the flat reclaimed mini-fen behind.
This is where the resemblance ended and despite trying my luck in every swim I could reach and eventually trotting the Frome at Redcliff, where I'd parked, after three hours it was clear I was not destined for a traditional pike. Or any kind of pike, come to that.
Southdrain Pike Hunt...1
Southdrain Pike Hunt...2
Southdrain Pike Hunt...3
Southdrain Pike Hunt...4
Southdrain Pike Hunt...5
As it was barely coffee time I headed over to Holme Bridge and spent a further couple of hours trying out odd holes and a big eddy upstream of the bridge...and then tried under the bank downstream of the bridge...none of which got me a snatch GCC1 Another ruling from the Geneva Comedy Convention of 1887 - when using the word 'snatch', a bit of a leer is encouraged as well as a slight pause, less than ¾s, more than ¼s, before the next word. The disputed '1936 Amendment' also makes provision for a double waggle of the eyebrows, the so called 'Groucho' amendment.. Ah well...really good fun though.
16th December 2010. Reel life. The plan was to pike-fish on the Frome. I got up, found out the pike gear, put 12lb on the 'pin, made the coffee, put the pie in to warm. Hit the post office and got the potatoes and got to the river at 12:10. Got the rod up and realised the landing net was handle was in the study. Cr@p. Went home, it started raining, there goes the piking. Now I'm in the same state of mind as 'Steve, Clem, Hobbsy, John, Crazy Dil & Pappy' even though I'm not travelling second class. TFH...they wern't too fecking happy.
8th March 2011. Bartons Court Lake. We were robbed of a proper breakfast by a Newbury supermarket cafe's sneaky conversion into "Italian for Coffee", it's just not the same. Never mind, we provisioned up and headed for the fish. The day was again bright and idyllically calm and we opted for the west bank in the sunshine on the basis of 'first water warmed and longest'. A nice place to sit, as it turns out and also for a nap. We put up floats and waited, watched the kite, who's mewing accentuates the flat clam. I did get a reasonable snap over my shoulder, by a fluke of the shutter, then several pictures of a trio of pike (look hard) that doing the Prespawn Tango. But other fish we saw not, although the Nomes had been by...
|spot the fish||OK, 'a' float then||OK, not perfect but still pretty good||mating pike|
|mating pike||mating pike||They've got rod-rests too. Right?|
It was though, fabulous weather but JH was well under it so after a fishless and biteless few hours, I opted for a wander with bread and he for 'sleeping off the lurgy'. I tried a few likely spots and ended up sitting between the reeds in a swim on the east end and although nothing went for my bread, a spot of casual freelining gave a chance to spot a few rises among the waves at this end. Although doldrumic at the other end, by then a light breeze had pushed a chop to this end and when a tail flicked past the grass at my feet I'd made up my mind this end was a better bet. My other plan for floating bread amongst the tree was also stymied by the brutal pruning of the brush which seems at odds with the worry about cormorants here, removing the fishes' refuges if nothing else. Ah well. Float fishing it is.
I went back for gear and JH had decided on a spot amongst the trees, which made sense a well so we diverged. I lobbed in the inevitable hemp and after about an hour JH gave it up for his sickbed and leaving me with best wishes and some prawns. I'd meanwhile put on 10lb mono and a crow quill and laid on a size '7' with a cockle and now a prawn. This is my favourite game and I watched the float in the chop for 30 minutes and it might have moved once and so I gave myself another 15 before changing to paste. All at once the float is subtly disobeying the waves and then flicking once, like the end a match extinguished in the fingers, it drops out of sight and my strike was resisted by a lump which wondered off in a bemused way. I'd bent the rod over for a bit and after a minute or so I steered it inboard and nearing the net everything changed and my new attachment headed hard for the other bank getting 25 yards nearer it than me. I pulled back, pulled it out of a left hand kite twice with the line singing in the wind and then we did it all again. And again. And once more for luck, kite to the right this time and then we had five minutes of circular attrition in front of me and another run-off when sighting the net. Then a bit more circling, this time getting the fish up in the water and as it flips into the net, I think to myself, that'll be a 20lb then. So it proves, in fact 21lb, but what colours! Better than average.
|...the right spot||just perfect||the most stunning winter coat||21lb Mirror...and caught the proper way as well|
I get one more bite 25 minutes later and a much short battle yields this tench, which I'm inclined to weigh, 5½lb. That's also good, a blazing end to a long quiet day and I'm thinking "what's third?" and "Pity JH wasn't here" when the wind, chilling me for sure, but warming the water also, drops like a cut sail and it's suddenly flat calm and I wonder whether the warm water wedge will oscillate back to me before dusk, but it doesn't. Not bad, ironically the swim nearest the car-park. I can barely move my chilled-to-the-marrow hands.
|second prize isn't bad either||the fish went with wind...||...and didn't come back|
The last of the felled willow and withies are put to the torch, then the last two pike in No6. fall to casual sprats and the LRH No2, best of luck, the male and the female, the latter fat with roe, an unwanted plague of pikelets removed in the nick...the male fell to a sprat drifted across the middle of the pond under a maroon champagne cork with a hole through the middle and, perhaps prescient, fought like demon. The female took a sprat lobbed against the very corner of the reed bed, one of the greener shoots twitching in time to her tail as she sprang on the bait, much like a twitch-tailed cat on a mouse.
I had to put down my coffee...
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...1
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...2
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...3
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...4
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...5
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...6
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...7
The Wetlands' ground clearing and piking...8
One of the pike's tail-end was baked in the fire, cooked rather before the potatoes, tasted as sweet as any fish I've had, even the sceptics pronounced it really very good. Now, I wonder what fish the pike have left us? We ate potatoes, had fresh brewed tea, coffee and ate chocolate biscuits as dessert and then 'The Woodsman' and I took up our rods for the thin chance of a fish in No.5 while he kippered me with his Storm kettle... no fish came to our baits, but it didn't matter.
26th May 2014. The Wetland Pikes. There were the two on the 13thSurprisingly nice, probably from the original stocking, then five today (33). Two at 3lb and ¾lb (35) were taken from '5' two weeks ago and two ¾lb from '4' with one escaping (38)...
|Good stripes son, show 'em off...then released into the wild...||Five more||...from this tiny pool|
It is a tiny pool, perhaps 25 yards square...amazing really. Little breeders.
17th August 2014. Barton's Court. The Chipping Norton road is one I've not travelled for a score of years, but it unfurled familiarly enough, I ticked off the recalled landmarks, rolled down the A34 into Donnington services for a light breakfast. Autumn swirling in the air beat me here. Coffee...I'd planned sandwiches but the slightest of chills pushed me at toasted food. Onto 'the Court' then.
This idea is to use up bait and having checked the wind, I knew the car-park end was on the cards, even with the drop in temperature. My first swim, two round from the overflow was already rough, the undertow exceeding the drag on the surface. After a few attempts, I opted for a large self-cocking porcy rigged as a slider with a swan shot on the deck. I could cast that 30 yards with little effort, even with 10lb line, into the 12' depths. A single mussel fished over catapulted hemp got bites, two of which resulted in fish, a bream, maybe 3lb and a solid scrappy roach/bream hybrid of 3½lb or so. I gave in gracefully after an hour, my eyes strained by the bounding float and tried the swim cut on the overflow bank, '1'.
|The swim, the windswept undertow...||A bream. Oh good.||A roach-bream hybrid, not a bad fish as it happens.|
The water here slopes 3' to 8' in a rod length but bait dropped in the margin was rolled out along the bed, I missed a sitter off the blocks and 20 minutes later had a mirror with orange highlights. Aha. This was the pattern, and I took a common a bit larger after an hour, then a 4lb pike which I knew of, its charges across my scattered hemp all too visible, the sudden devotion to mussels its downfall. Finally, bait all but gone, the little pink tipped quill darted under a wave as casually as Cesare Borgia's stiletto meeting an old friend and rival for the papacy. Possibly 12lb or so, perfectly good fly-past fishing. I strolled about the lake, six other rods at the windward end, all blanking perfectly competently. India bowled out between Newbury and Blandford. Heh.
|The orange-tinged familiar.||A common, not unlike a stuck pig in one respect.||The mussel-rooked pike.||The last enchantment|
|one more pike out the Wetland...as it was on my way home.|
I got it into my head to essay a spot of piking on the Frome - taking only the 8ft, some braid and the strange contraptionous end tackle that is now the club's idea of sensible piking. Duh. The water was not nearly clear enough for good sport and despite fishing all nooks, eddies and crannies for upwards of four hours, I got not a snatch nor a snap. Bait-fishers were catching sporadically, where the pike were was entirely another matter. The blue tit (complete with ring'd leg) was just a good shot out of the man-cave window. No other reason.
|The 8ft rod, the champagne cork float, the 35lb braid, the 1 meter of 35lb nylon, plus a pike trace of 'good quality'. I kid you not, those are 'the rules'. Plus, oh yes, don't forget TWO pairs of 18-inch forceps, an unhooking mat and a weighing sling to release the fish.||Blue tit with ringed foot|
Then there are the 'pike rules': a 30cm wire trace (of 'good quality', whatever that means. I've never seen a shop bought one as good as my own) of 33lb breaking strain, plastic covered or single strand wire. Then one meter of 35lb nylon mono which can be connected to braid at that point. Plus, oh yes, don't forget TWO pairs of 18-inch forceps, an unhooking mat and a weighing sling to release the fish. The local tackle shops must love these rules.
There should be rules for a water, but sometimes it feels like rules are to put people off fishing for pike. However, even if the rules are silly, heed them if one fishes. If one dislikes the rules that much, don't fish there. Which is why my piking will now be downstream of this club's waters, as I prefer an 18" wire trace made and tested myself (so, you know, 'better than the rules') to the b/s of the mainline, which will be 17lb mono or 30lb braid. I use single hooks for the most part these days, get yourself some bass crab-hooks and take George Sharman'sFor some inexplicable reason, the most under-rated carp fishing book, with much good (and evidence based) advice on all sorts of topics. advice on 'cutting points' on hooks. Notice on the below, the loops are double crimped, mostly because most wire-trace crimps are brass, which means they're not brilliant (I feel it's too hard a metal for the job), so I crimp one in each orientation and then put heat-shrink over cyranoacrylate over the whole crimp. The hooks are wired on with a knot-less knot and then more heat-shrink over cyranoacrylate to keep them snug.
|Two single hook traces in soft multi-strand wire, one large cirle-hook and one bass crab-hook.||Two single hook traces in soft multi-strand wire, one large cirle-hook and one bass crab-hook.|
So 'high quality' shop stuff be damned. While we're on the subject I'd love to get hold of some copper crimps, they're softer metal and deform around the wire when crimped, giving a better hold and are less likely to damage the wire on crimping.
6th October 2017. The Old River (Ouse). The "Old River" is kind of an incised oxbow. It is incised for sure, but the railway embankment created the incision. It is perhaps ¾ of a mile of reed-lined water and if it's hard to find fish it's also a naturally stocked water. The ToSThe 'Thane of Sussex' potters off to stalk wary and unwary carp, while my first pitch is dreadfully shallow and too sunny, enough to remove my coat. Knowing it's 'wrong' I decamp a mere 50 yards for the cover of a lily bed, a little shade and 18" of extra depth. We shall see. It doesn't feel like a 'lots of fish' day, autumn cooling and shorter days have stalled feeding, but it's fine and bright with the soothing sound of the wind-rush in the reed-beds.
|A view of the Old River Ouse||A view of the Old River Ouse||The second pitch|
So I wait...
Now in the shade, I slip my coat back on. I bait hemp to the left, seafood and worm to the right. Hedging. Small fish are on the left, a few, but I'm ignoring them for now. Periodically fry star-burst from vicious swirls. There be pike. Ah-ha! The blue-tip flicks, twitches, dips and I have a fine perch of 10oz maybe that pulls the Avon tip over in a pleasing way. That'll do, one of those every 20 minutes please. I ponder hitching the worm a few inches off the bottom...the light changes, I change the float to an orange-tip.
|The second pitch and its quill||A path by the water||The perch of the rising hopes, thence dashed...|
The midday doldrums stretch me out to ennui (hindsight informs me that I usually have a couple of strong coffees a.m., but today, no such), I tune into the buzz of the miner bees in the bare earth bank behind, then spend too long capturing a dragonfly and finally resolve to remove the pike in the woodpile. I spend an hour catching rudd, fishing scraps of cockle on a size 16, dropping rudd and roach in the landing net, re-purposed as 'keep'. No wire trace. Hm. I ponder this and make up a trace of four strands of 10lb braid, tied such that each strand is not quite the same length, if one braid is nicked the next will take the strain and so on. I tie this bundle of braids to a link swivel and put a size 4 hook on the link. I dig out a small cork from the bag, a neat little float the size of a ping-pong ball, the shape of a 'gazette' bung (which came in a glory-box of bits, made well with the insertion of a plastic tube through the frayed cork and two coats of varnish). There, all done. I put 8lb line on the Avon and swing this rig into the space between two lily pad patches...
...and continue to watch the intricate aerobatics of at least six varieties of dragon and damsel fly...
...where the float drifts too-and-fro before vanishing with a swirl and fairly audible 'thuck'. I wait one whole 'elephant', heave the rod and for a few minutes debate the relative merits of water and grass with a small pike. Said fish is obligingly scissor hooked, so I pop it back and rebait. The ToSThe 'Thane of Sussex' comes by and we exchange virtual fishes, then he stalks, literally, towards the other end for the evening rise. I get another 'thuck' and after playing this fish for a bit, the rod straightens. Drat.
|A Scarlet Darter (male) as far as I can tell||Small, gullible and good fun. Unless you're a small rudd.|
Eying up the other end, where the water is deeper (apparently), I trot along and again fish for perch by a few lilies, a quill weighted with a worm, the end of which was laying on the bottom. I spend a pleasant two hours watching the tiny movements of my float caused by the wriggling worm, but somewhat to my surprise, the float even when sunset-lit, didn't move faster than that. The ToSThe 'Thane of Sussex' also lucked out although he was teased mightily by a few carp.
|The reflected sunset||The reflected sunset (again). Well, it looks great.||Sun down, day done.|
|Why, sometimes, a translucent tipped quill is best...|
I envy those that have this venue on their doorstep. There is little like it in Dorset, and I miss piking for 'regular' pike, mostly small, it's fine sport. I'll take sprats next time.
20th December 2018. The Wetland. "The WetlandPete's Wetland." I thought to myself, "would be ideal place to spend a few hours." This is partly because it's a pleasant place to be and also because there are as yet pike, where pike are surplus to requirements. Plus, pike fishing is traditional at this time of year, although I'm not really sure why.
Thus it was arranged and I arrived around coffee-time, put out float-fished sprats in ponds '4' and in '5' for 'said surplus pike and sat where I could see both floats. After a while I moved the '4' float, as a pike had started slashing at the rudd that were pottering around the sun-lit gin-clear water. The relocated bait remained un-toothed, so I gently retrieved it for a recast and a fat little 2-3lb pike followed it all the way home and then ignored it, somewhat haughtily I thought. Before I could carefully provide it with a ball of worms, it mooched off to terrorise the rudd. Pete arrived then whipped off to change the memory card in the trail camera. I put up the JW Avon, threaded a small quill onto the 4lb line, stop-shotted it with a no.4 and christened my Cardinal 33 with a succession of bright gold-and-silver rudd, which was fun.
|11am, nearly mid-winter||The pitch in pond '4'||The slightly psychadelic pike-cork||A sparkle of rudd|
It seemed the right time to decamp to '6' to try for a perch last seen in the warmer months. Pete re-arrived, then nipped off to do something remedial to a fallen willow between ponds '3' and '4' so I slid down to '7', threading rod and net through various newly prone crack-willows. Nothing took the sprat at either end of this tiny pond, or when it was stealthily pulled along the length. Pete arrived with the big saw and helpfully cut me a line of retreat, making egress rather easier than the ingress.
Returning to pond 6's reed-bed chair I nabbed a 2lb pike after some careful sink-and-draw with the float, while Pete continued to cut willow. Pete came by, went-on and I half packed and I determined to try for a chub in '1' with a free-lined lob, fancying that a solid take would result if the worm were cast without spooking them. So, replacing the JW Avon's size 16 with a size 6 fine-wire worm-hook, I headed for the first pond.
I was arrested by the sight of a large pike in the last pitch on pond '3', where Pete was fairly sure there wasn't a pike. Fish and fisherman stared at each other for a few moments and the fish flicked its tail and vanished into muddy water. I set up my pitch, cast a dead-bait up the side of the pond, put a lob-worm onto the big-fine-wire gobby-chub hook, and flicked it, with its 5" quill, into the margin, more to provide something to look at, than in expectation. Presently the quill was enveloped in a burst of bubbles and the quill darted forward and vanished. To my surprise this was a fine tench, fine for any water, for this little 20 × 20 yard pool, a giant, and probably the first tench I've ever caught in mid-winter. Huh.
|The pond '6' pikerel||The pond '3' tench|
The pike however, was still noticeable by its absence, so I left the gear where it was and took worms and net to '1', where the chub were obligingly obvious in their favourite north-east corner. Aha. It took me three casts to get the worm in the right place, then the shoal broke, but not before one chub pounced. Heh. I caught another by waiting until the circulating fish showed themselves and casting a worm at one, then after a longish wait, a third also by casting to a visible fish. This last was the proverbial straw for the shoal which vanished for the day. As chub do. All three were pristine and bright if not, as always, the shoals' largest fish.
Going back to the chair, I flung out another worm then re-cast the dead-bait to the back of the little pool, periodically drawing the float-fished sprat back a couple of feet and letting it fall. So it was that the cork ended up level with the languishing quill, where it 'cloomped' under. A careful strike caused the pike to nip off right under the quill, obliging me to open the bale-arm of the little Cardinal 33 with one hand while playing the pike with the other...
|The pond '3' Leviathan||sundown|
Hm. This was the only alarm and despite a few self-respecting attempts to get into the water-cress clumps, the fish was netted with the usual bad grace. I dropped it into '6' to commune with its fellows, possibly to the detriment of the smaller ones, packed up the pike tackle then loitered around pond '1' for a while, enjoying the winter dusk and half-hoping for a sight of another chub, which never came.
|cold moon rise|
24th November 2019. Wetland Pike. A slow slow day. The plan was to try to remove a pike or two and I drifted dead-baits and myself around Pond 4 and Pond 3 for most of the afternoon, to no avail. Having seen one of the Pond 4 pike I made the mistake of fishing static baits for too long, although as a result of this, I moved about a bit and spotted a couple of pike in Pond 3 which was a 'surprise' as we'd thought there was 'just the one' and I removed it last year. Hm. A poor effort and my only success, fish-wise, was a lone tench caught on a long-distance porcupine quill and lobworm. Unseasonal, but several large tench were visible in Ponds 3 and 4, and they would occasionally dip and scuff the silt, so there's that.
|The wet-leaf path by Pond 4||The meadow across the way||The hopeful and distant pike-float|
|The bait under the fallen willow||The expert||The lone tench. Yes that's a cardboard Glenmorangie tube 'repurposed' as a float tube.|
Summarising, in my head, my experience of these pike leads me to conclude the most effective methods here are lures and moving baits. So a re-think and a change of tack and tackle are required.
28th November 2019. Crimps. I've located and purchased some 1.5mm copper tubing (1.5mm o/d, 1mm i/d), so have ordered a metre to turn into wire-trace crimps. Promises to be an interesting exercise. Further bulletins as events warrant.
1st December 2019. Wetland Pike. Again. I'd made some traces up with single hooks (some big red sea-fishing hooks with all their various barbs flattened off) and a single Mustad 'bloodworm' hook in a size 8. The idea is to enable repeated casting and sink-and-drawing of a sprat, with the smaller hook doing the job if the larger misses. While it's traditional to fish for pike with manly and massive hooks, if a size 8 will hold a 20lb carp, it'll manage the same weight of pike...and to ensure that I carefully hone a cutting point onto these traces' hooks.
It was cold and clear and Pete came by when I'd cast half a dozen times, so we inspected the ponds seeing two pike in '4' but not a twitch in the other ponds, with '5' and '6' very weedy still, although both are home to more E.L.
Pond '7' was very high, with two swans with two cygnets clearing the weed, so we left them to it. Pete went on and I snuck up on the larger pike at the top end of '4' and dropped a ball of worms in front of its nose. These, it haughtily ignored, and eventually it drifted off, underlining its contempt. Huh.
I spent the middle of the afternoon north-wind drifting dead-baits around ponds '3' and '4', then fished a static bait in the well favoured pond '4' under-bank lie. It sounds pedestrian, but it really wasn't. There was a lesser-spotted woodpecker in the smaller of the poplars, a curious twitchy wren, or two, a large covey of partridges whirred over, two field-fares picked around the roadside trees with their small noises of satisfaction, a flock of 50 of the same whooshed over my head, then three deer made their way up the hedge behind the stream and I watched all and sipped tea and eyed the remaining parts of the fallen willow with ill-intent. The sinking sun flared off the tree-tops and it was all rather pleasant.
The shadows were lengthening when I picked up the Other Mk.III to again flick a sprat about. I immediately nabbed a small one from '4', hooked right through the top lip (as it were) by the trailing hook. Another followed the next two casts, then pinched the sprat right off the trace. I made a few more fruitless casts, then tried '3'. Third cast; a shadowing pike spooked as I lifted the bait. On the next, I twitched the bait until the shadow pounced; despite my strike it came off, softly, as if the hook hadn't taken at all. I got two more follows, then the light had gone.
|The sinking sun flared off the tree-tops and it was all rather pleasant.||I immediately nabbed a small one from '4', hooked right through the top lip (as it were) by the trailing hook.|
Interesting. The last hour was the right time, I should have picked up the rod sooner. The traces perhaps need a third single hook (or 'VB' doubles). The Other Mk.III is a fine rod for this, it flicks an unencumbered sprat 30 yards, although the 'ferrule' is a smidge too easy and I shall rub a fine coat of epoxy on it and finish it off with some 000 wet-and-dry. It might do even better with a larger butt-ring as well. Hm. More 'improvments'.
I shall remake the traces with two size 8 hooks, the last can flap about or be nicked though the bait's tail, a chasing pike seems to miss the other hooks as often as not. I need to strike a little harder than it first appears; the slender rod-tip needs to be firmly 'struck through'. It's hard to be certain but it seemed to me the red-dyed sprats got more action than the silver...I shall put dye and sprats on the shopping list. All but trod on a partridge in the gloom, frightened the life out of me.
So...I got my 1.5mm copper tubing and while I was at it, a selection of Mustard red 'baitholder' hooks. I spent a few minutes with a very expensive pair of electronics' pliers flattening the barbs down on the whole lot. I cut the copper tube into 5mm lengths. This is easier said than done; you can't use (say) cutters as that'll flatten the tubing. What I did was, put the tubing onto a hard flat piece of wood (a.k.a. 'my desk'), take the BVSKBig Very Sharp Knife (an 'Opinel No 5' that has the blade ground down to just under 3" in length), placed it on the tubing, pressed down hard and rotated the tubing back and forth with the other hand. This works much like a pipe cutter does and it only take five seconds to cut a small section off - it tends to zip across the desk somewhat as it detaches, so I made a 'catcher' with folded kitchen towel. In 10 minutes I'd cut about 30 'ferrules'.
I was, after the excellent book launch for "One Last Cast"I've at last written the sequel to 'The Net on the Garage Wall'. In it I've drawn a final line under my own angling and conservation experiences, bringing things as up-to-date as possible. It's a special book, with numerous fine drawings by Trevor Harrop. We are publishing just 200 copies. The book launch is in Shaftesbury on December 7th and we hope it'll be a notable angling occasion! If you want to pre-order a copy, at £ plus postage, please get in touch via this website." - Peter Rolfe", forced to return home via the Todber Tackle Shop and thence past Hamoon Weir, just because it was a nicer drive. In the tackle shop I purchased several silcone roach, in two sizes. I wanted something soft as a standby bait, and it occurred to me that a couple of traces to mount such would be handy. I resolved to make two-hook traces for each size - one might be enough, but my experience is that smaller pike prefer to 'miss' a single 'lip' mounted hook on a moving bait, while I prefer the alternative outcome. As previously, I tied a hook onto the wire using a 'knotless' knot, cut off the tag end, put a dab of cyanoacrylate on the knot then put heat shrink tubing over the knot itself. I measured up the distance for the second hook, put heat-shrink over the hook shank, threaded the wire through the tubing, through the eye and tied a second 'knotless', dabbed it with cyanoacrylate, slid the tubing back over the knot and applied the heat.
It's as well to have the lure handy, to check the spacing and orientation of the hooks relative to each other, as you work. I want the 'tail' hook at 90° to the 'lip' hook. Once that's all done and cooled off, I thread a piece of heat-shrink over the wire, 1.5cm or so, two of my new copper ferrules, run the wire through a swivel and back down through both ferules. I then bend the tag end over and thread it back through the ferrules and pull the tag until the wire loop formed is just (0.5-1mm) proud of the ferrule. This arrangement, something I worked out in about 1991The Pike Method from the Pike Madness., prevents the wire simply pulling out under strain as the loop jams in the ferrule if it slips at all.
I then pull the standing part of the wire back until the loop with the swivel is the size I want it. Using snipe-nose pliers, I crimp the lower (nearest the hooks) ferrule, crimping the middle section of the ferrule, so the 'edge' say 0.25-0.5mm is slightly un-crimped. I crimp the other ferrule in the same way, but at 90° to the first, cut off the tag end off the wire and give the whole thing a substantial 'pull test'. When (if) it passes that, I slide the tubing over both ferrules and shrink it.
For the Wetland I make traces about a foot long, but the largest pike here, ever, was only 10lb. On some waters there are rules about 18" traces, so for general use, I'd skip the swivel, make the loop about 1cm long and make a few foot-long traces out of a slightly heavier wire with a unadorned loop at one end and a swivel at the other and join the two 'loop-to-loop'.
Once a thought is in your head, it can be hard to expunge. This then, is the mind-set of the compulsive fettler. So it was, that I ordered a Fuji BNLG 30mm for the other Mk.III's new butt-ring and a couple of black Minima's to ease the line's transition from the new butt to the tip. Because of some colossal idiocy, I'd whipped some blue thread over white paint to colour some of the carbon 'ferrules', so I added some dark blue NCP 'D' thread to the order and will replace those whippings as well. Not that this makes a blind bit of difference to anything, except to the engineering gremlins of the mind. Curse them.
In the meantime I slipped onto Pond 3 on the back of the Friday half-day, with the un-fettled Mk.IIIStill a useful rod, as long as one likes the colour blue., the braid-loaded '66x, a dozen frozen sprats and some nice new three-hook casts. I fancied the trailing hook on the cast would snag the tail-strike and the braid would compensate for the fine tip of the rod. It's poor science to change two variables at once, but still. I flicked a sprat about '3'. I removed new trace from a small willow at its own expense, and moved onto Pond '4'. In this way I discovered the spool was under-filled, which requires remedying.
I got not a twitch, strolled about the '5' and '6' without seeing a fish and tried a few casts in '7', which was high, tea-coloured and harbouring a large cast-off poplar branch, that I carefully, if involuntarily, removed with a pike trace. This probably did for my chances there, so as the witching hour approached, I headed back to '4'.
My second cast into '4' nabbed the smaller of the two (hopefully) remaining pike. I popped it into '6', then on the return journey spotted the big one lying under the bank. Hm. I stalked back with a new sprat and it drifted off, nonchalantly, bordering on disdainfully. I threw the bait past the fallen willow twice - I'm by now into a steady routine; cast, one-elephant two-elephant, one wind of the reel handle, one-elephant two elephant... This allows enough time for the bait to almost sink to the bottom between darts...
|Pond '4' in the Low Winter Sun||The Smaller of the Pond 4 Pike|
...I throw a long one down the middle of the pond...one-elephant two elephant, wind one, one-elephant two elephant...and the tip of the rod is yanked violently, making the reel squeak. Heh. This is the 'big one', perhaps a little over 3lb, also decanted into '6' with its brothers and big sisters. I return to '3', nothing doing, try five more minutes on '4' (one never knows) and then fish '3' until the light is nearly gone.
|The Larger of the Pond 4 Pike||...and then fish '3' until the light is nearly gone.|
A simple pleasure, catching pike on my boy's own rod, now in its 45th year. Adding larger rings will add some easy distance to the cast. Probably. It'll at least ease using the '66x, which I'd prefer to have on the rod if using a line over 8lb b/s (in mono) or braid mainline. The latter might be handy if I embrace a 'new' single strand wire that is apparently titanium-and-nickel and seems to my old befuddled brain to be a face-lift for 'AlasticumInteresting stuff.'. Being single-strand it will 'Albright' quite nicely to braid, which might make for a neat pike rig.
I was clearing through those containers scattered about one's desk for the accretion of 'small useful things that have no special home' and on retrieving a sub-set of such things that contra to expectation had a home, I found a lined tip-ring with a very thin tube. I suspect it came off the Cormoran telescopic, and it now looks 'just right' for the tip of the Mk.III...maybe.
|I'd half expected the pools to be at one with the main river and it wasn't very far from that, being almost level with the bank-top, normally two fathoms above the water line.|
|I walked the bounds, spotting one 5lb pike in the reeds at the south end. I put up the Mk.III and sunk'n'drew a sprat around the top of the Crow, to no avail. Halfway down, a disturbance in the semi-rotted rushes turned out to be another 5lb pike, which loitered once in view, so I casually ignored it and drew my sprat slowly in the direction it was facing...it meandered off and I cast hopefully for a while...but it was either spooked or not feeding, the latter felt more likely.||Having drawn my way to the reeds where I spotted the first pike, I popped on a champers cork and fished my way back up the stream. This was running rather hard with a little colour, but I nevertheless fished in every tiny bank-side slack I could find, even the ones that were no more than a gap in the matted weeds. Fun though this was, it was pike-less, so I looped back around to the car, grabbed the LHSRE and the worms and headed smartly for the first swim after the sluice. The sun came out, making it too bright for pike, not that it wasn't already too bright.||I popped a small cork on and fished a sprat near and far, more in hope, fished a worm over quill by the reeds and sipped my tea, the usual BEGAC, with a slug of blackberry whisky (for the vitamin C).|
|The sun lit the reeds, the sluice provided white noise and it was almost a surprise when the little red cork popped out of my peripheral vision, amid a boil of grey water. The Mk.III is short, but the joy of braid is that one can flick it clear of the water, tighten it up and strike, even at 30 yards, and hit the fish as hard as at 10 feet. E.L. whipped hard left, obliging me to make full use of the '66x's retrieve and then streaked off the other way pulling the rod over and squeaking line off the spool. Not a large fish, but a 12'' length of thick green bramble came ashore in the net causing the most fearful tangle of net and hooks.||I was on the point of cutting the trace, when I worked out what had happened. The fish had the large single in the scissors and one of the smaller singles a little towards the snout and the last single deep in a roll of net wound around the piece of bramble. Still.||Nice colour isn't it? I should have taken the hint that it was now feeding time, put the sink-and-draw back on and circled the pool. However, I had a worm on a string, the noise of the water and the roosting black-birds so was quite enjoying myself, so I stayed put until I couldn't see.|
And that's that for 2019. Onward and upward.
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