Avoiding a blank – even if it took three attempts (pike article, entry 241)

The week started off very cold with night-time temperatures falling well into the minuses. It was just as well, I told myself, that I couldn’t get out fishing until Thursday, which just happened to coincide with a switch in wind direction. And with milder weather coming in from the Atlantic, prospects certainly looked better than on Monday when all the local canals and pools were covered throughout the day as well as the night with a layer of ice.

 Fishing has to be about enjoyment, and as I really enjoyed last week’s trip to the small tributary river after pike, I carried on where I left off. Although I do consider myself a specimen angler, in the sense that I will invariably be targeting not only specific fish but also above-average weight for the venue, I’m not driven by some irrational obsession to catch pb’s at all costs. Fishing also has to be a pleasure and as I really enjoyed my time at the river that is what really counts more than anything else. It’s no good catching big fish if you aren’t happy.

 Like so many of the places that I fish, not only did I have the place to myself as far as anglers were concerned, there were no other people either such as dog walkers or ramblers. In such an overcrowded country, and one that is becoming ever more increasingly so due to the government’s immigration policy, it’s still nice to know that you can have a day out at the water’s edge and be the only person in the area. I wasn’t totally alone though as there were regular goosander in flight and the pool on meadow behind had teal and wigeon throughout the day.

 

 The river allowed me to fish two rods, a float fished bait right along the edge and a legered one towards the far bank. As the river is more like a ‘U’ than a ‘V’ in terms of profile where I fished, the water was practically just as deep a few inches out as it was in the middle. Sometimes as anglers we forget that fish can be almost under our feet. And with a bank to push up to, it certainly offered more cover than being out in the main flow. The river is not deep at all, just over a metre maximum. There are places where it becomes fairly wide, but this is deceptive because it means that the depth is less than in other sections.

 I was there nice and early, well early for me as I’m not a morning person. I very rarely go to bed before midnight, but just the thought of getting up before 7.00am has me feeling all weak and weary. I can just about manage it if the carrot before me is a fishing trip. But even then it’s not till I’ve been at the water’s edge for an hour that I feel like I have properly woken up. And on the first session of the week, the fish must also have been feeling the same way as my sardine baits lay motionless on the river bed throughout the day.

 But right at the end as I was beginning to pack away, I had a single bleep on the bite alarm. Slight movements on the rod tip alerted me to the fact that a fish was indeed interested in the bait. With predators such as pike, the timing of the strike is very important. Too soon and you can lose the fish but if you leave it too long then you are looking at a deep-hooked fish and that is not what you want. I have heard anglers (fortunately not many) say that you wait a couple of minutes from the original enquiry, or even pour a drink from the flask and when you have finished it, that’s the time to strike. These are nothing more than dangerous old wives’ tales and should not even be entertained by those fishing for pike.

 

 Experience is so important, as numerous factors let you know when it’s right to lift into the fish, but if you are new to predator fishing then always, always err on the safe side. No-one wants to lose fish because the hooks shed, but then again we don’t want to see fish die because they swallowed the trebles either. It’s better to have a lost pike than a dead one. And that’s exactly what happened to me as my initial strike into a good fish eventually saw me reeling in a deadbait minus that which had originally taken a fancy to it. Straight away, I knew that I had struck too soon, I should have left it a little longer, but even if you are an experienced pike angler, you still live and learn.

 With a session planned for the next day to round off the week, there was no doubt whatsoever where I would be heading. There is something about a lost fish that provokes within me a challenge. So for the second morning on the trot I was up while it was still dark and I found myself once more on the river bank just after 8.00am. Unashamedly I headed for exactly the same spot that I had been in just twenty four hours earlier. I’m not sure if the stretch gets fished much but there were no signs at all that any other anglers have been near the place ever. I’m sure they have though, but certainly not for a while.

 With it being the second day of the warm weather I was quite hopeful. Many anglers don’t appreciate that air and water temperatures don’t move at the same rate. You see it very often when people are packing away as it gets dark. But just because the air reading plummets from 6C to 0C, don’t think that the water also responds accordingly because it doesn’t. But with the river I was fishing being so shallow, I knew that the raise in air temperature would have a more direct bearing on the water than if it was a twenty feet deep gravel pit.

 The day was quite slow, again it was the bird life that provided the action. The wigeon were once more in the meadow behind, goosander were regularly passing by in flight, but the highlight was a distant peregrine falcon that I had decent enough views of. But it was fishing that I had come for, and so when the float started to move early afternoon I very quickly had rod in hand, ready to strike. Frustrating it was though, as like the day before the fish came free. The bait was untouched so I dropped it back in the water again as I thought about the next step and whether to move swims due to the commotion.

 But as I lifted the bait in the water I saw a pike lunge at it. Letting it rest once more on the bottom, within seconds the float was away and this time it was third time lucky as the fish was landed. (Not that I believe in luck though, it’s just a saying.) After weighing and photographing the pike, I returned it to the water and moved upstream for the remaining two hours of light to test the predator potential there. No more fish but I was thankful that I had indeed avoided a blank, even if it took three attempts.

(Originally published January 2008)

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