There’s nothing like a decent fish or two to instil confidence, and my recent brace of doubles certainly helped me to have plenty of faith as I once more set off for an afternoon’s piking session. The weather was good for both myself (dry) and the fish (a nice gentle breeze) – it’s not often as anglers we get to pay the elements a compliment is it!
If I had to choose only one pike bait, then it would be the humble sprat. There are a number of reasons why I would make that choice: they are cheap, easily obtainable, they smell, and you get a lot of them for your money! And certainly don’t be fooled into thinking that small baits equal small fish – which is certainly not the case.
So it was, by early afternoon I had cast both rods out and sat back waiting for some action. Within the hour my right hand rod indicator shot up and line started to peel off like there was no tomorrow! It certainly was not like any pike I had hooked before; it was just like a carp run. Well actually my observation was not that far off, because after a very short but spirited fight, I found myself slipping the net under a…tench!
It weighed in at 5-1-0, and is the first time I have had a tench while pike fishing. I have however caught carp; on another local venue a few seasons ago I landed a 12lb+ mirror on sprat! It just goes to show – all this fine-tuning of rigs and you go and land a carp on treble hooks and wire!
The only pike of the session came three hours later, when a fish just short of 10lb (9-13-8) made the unhooking mat. Not that I was disappointed in it being the ‘wrong’ side of the double mark, I genuinely appreciate all fish that I catch. It’s still nice to catch a fish in double figures though, and I’m hoping to add a few of that weight to my ‘tally’ over the next few months. Before the season is out I’m also hoping to extend my personal best, which is 20-1-0, a fish I caught back in 1999. As I’m intending to do more pike fishing this winter than ever before, I am hopeful that I will beat that fish.
To round off the week, I decided to have a session on a small river. Of course, with river piking, the conditions are crucial, and with the water at normal level I decided to take advantage of that. A visit to Morrisons Supermarket saw me stock up the bait freezer with herrings. My preferred sea bait, as I have previously stated, is the sprat, but you have to take what you can. And with the choice being herrings or smoked salmon, I went for the former!
The river in question is one I have fished before, and caught decent pike from. I know the venue well and so had in mind exactly where I intended to fish. Although it is a small river, the swim is such that I can fish two rods quite comfortably. The left rod I fished downstream just off the main flow, and the right one was literally down the edge directly in front of me, alongside reeds, which are now in decline as the winter draws closer.
Due to the size of the river, I had to position myself in such a way that I was concealed, yet at the same time, able to get to the rods immediately that a run registered. If I had placed myself at the water’s edge, it would have been the kiss of death as far as catching fish was concerned. My fishing position wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it meant I was able to keep low and hidden, and that was what really counted.
After an hour of casting out, the right hand indicator started to move. This was the herring head bait, as I had cut the fish in two. The pike wasn’t big, it weighed in at 5-10-0, but it’s always nice to get a fish. I photographed it, just in case I didn’t catch another, and so at least I had something to illustrate the current article with!
But as it happened, no sooner had I returned the fish than the indicator on the other rod began to rise. Striking, I found myself playing a much larger pike. It instantly went off into the current and did its absolute best to avoid capture. However, with no snags at all in the swim, I knew that the odds were very much in my favour. Therefore, after a good fight I eventually netted a lovely looking fish.
It weighed 15-6-0, which is my best pike so far this campaign. What was particularly satisfying was that it came from such a small river; I really do like fishing that type of venue. In fact, although I usually mention the name of the rivers where I fish (but not specific spots), in this instance I am not even going to disclose that.
Following the disturbance of landing the big pike, I took one of the rods and roved the meadow, dropping a bait into a couple or so likely looking swims. However, with sudden and very heavy rain putting in an appearance, I finished the session back in my original swim, sheltered under the umbrella as the weather conditions changed from one extreme to another. (It had previously been a nice day). By the time I got back to the car, walking through the long grass, I was cold and wet – but very happy!
(Originally published October 2004)