I’ve certainly enjoyed my pike fishing this year, and although the waters I’ve been fishing are very unlikely to throw up even a ‘20’, in reality I still consider a double a good fish. And I’ve been catching fish over the 10lb mark on a regular basis – enough to put a bend in your rod and a smile on your face.
Even though we are now well into March (April is just around the corner) I fancied a last crack at the species before I finally get down to some carp fishing, which will now take me up to June 16 and the start of a new river season. Hence it was with great expectation that I set off to cast a dead bait for the last time this spring.
And talking of spring, the signs have been with us for a while and whilst walking to the lake from the car park I noticed several birds engrossed in the nest making process, flying around with twigs, straw and other such natural resources in their beaks. And in the meadow a cow and her young calf sat and watched as I walked past. Seeing those big, beautiful eyes, just for a moment I felt guilty about eating meat. But that moment quickly passed!
Although it was a lovely day, with the sun shining and the birds singing, the water temperature was still stuck in winter. At just five degrees, the recent winds from the north had obviously taken their toll. Still, I was determined to catch something. Not that positive attitude, in itself, can put fish on the bank. But I do believe that a good mental outlook is a factor in angling.
I was fishing in eighteen feet of water, and this just a couple of rod lengths from the bank. A sharp drop off formed a natural pike patrol route and I have caught from that peg many times before. The last session of any campaign is hardly one to be experimenting with new tactics or swims. Do all that early on, and by the time you come to wind up the campaign you can hopefully bring in the benefit of all the hard work done previously.
Just as I was setting up I noticed a couple of partridges in the field behind. Spotting me, they quickly took off, but as I observed them I followed them into a ploughed field just over the ridge. As I was in a very rural area, and knew that there was no one else in the vicinity, I set off in pursuit of the birds, leaving my tackle at the water’s edge. Armed with my binoculars I added the Red Legged Partridge to my tick list for the year.
Getting back to my swim, within a few minutes I had cast out both rods and was now settled down to wait for some action. That came after about an hour as the right hand bob went sailing away and I was into a decent pike, which certainly looked a double as I slipped the net under it. Well, it was, but only just, as the digital read-out went to 10-0-8. Still, it was a nice fish, and considering the water temperature, I was happy enough.
A couple more birds graced my vision as the afternoon wore on. First of all a Rook, and then a Song Thrush made their way into my book. (I’m sounding like a referee!) The latter used to be very common birds but in recent years have seriously declined. They are actually very pretty birds, particularly if you get time to observe them properly, which as I was keeping one eye on a couple of pike floats, I didn’t really have time to do.
I did manage a second pike as the day wore on. This was again a double, and rather than being a scraper, it was just short of 11lb, weighing in at 10-14-8. I recognised it as a fish that I have caught previously at 10-14-0 so it was a definite re-capture, although I haven’t had too many of those on this particular lake.
The fish was hooked just inside the mouth, with the sprat still visible as it came to the net. This is the best way to hook pike, and with experience you can time the strike just right. There are still anglers out there who leave the pike to run far too long, resulting in a deep hooked fish.
In fact the first of the session I caught had a trace dangling out of its mouth. With hooks that were beyond reach, the best I could do was to cut the trace as far down its throat as possible. It is vital that all anglers attempting to pike fish understand that in spite of its ferocious appearance and reputation, the pike is actually a very sensitive fish. And of course we should carry all the correct equipment that is needed when fishing for pike.
So, although I had a great end to my pike campaign with the two doubles, it was still tinged with sadness at the fish that had been carrying the trace around inside its stomach. There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of pike welfare, and sadly the majority of it is amongst fellow anglers. But I do believe in education not condemnation as the way forward.
(Originally published March 2004)