Home before the snow (pike article, entry 71)

With a sudden downturn in the weather, my choice of angling for the week was pretty much decided for me. The cold spell meant that I put the barbel gear away and switched to pursuing pike instead. This is the beauty of having options when fishing campaigns. Whilst I admire the die-hards who focus on one particular fish, personally I prefer to switch species as the conditions dictate.

With the luxury of having four individual days ahead of me in the week to fish on, I decided to target the local lake where I am currently spending a lot of my still-water pike time. With the water now cooling down rapidly from its summer highs, I gave it much thought as to where I would fish on the venue.

Would I go for the deeper water, where I know the fish will be in the winter yet is barren in the summer, or would I fish the shallower section, which is exactly the opposite? I decided to go for the latter, although when I say ‘shallower’ it is all relative. There is still eight feet of water under the rod tip.

As the day wore on, my buzzers remained silent, and I knew that the pike had taken up residence in their winter quarters. I resisted the temptation to move though, as I wanted to put my theory to the test, particularly as my next visit would be to the deeper water. Well, part one proved to be correct, as I did indeed blank. I did see a couple of male Pochard though, taking my bird tick list to the year to 106.

Arriving at the lake a couple of days later, I walked to the spot where I have had quite a bit of success over the last winter. With water temperatures plummeting, although it’s still November, in reality it’s not far off the lows that we will experience over coming months. I’ve been fishing with buzzers and indicators recently, but I really fancied a session fishing with floats. To me personally, one of the most exciting sights in angling is to watch that motionless pike float suddenly start to stir, as the fish takes the bait.

As it happened, I had plenty of action, with three runs in the first two hours. The only problem was that each one resulted in a missed fish. The timing of the strike is crucial as far as pike fishing is concerned, and I usually get a very good ratio of fish runs to fish caught, with deep hooking hardly a problem at all. I was actually quite puzzled at why I should have three missed fish, one after the other.

But thankfully, I didn’t descend into any deep consternation, as the next three runs all resulted in fish on the bank. None of them were particularly big; in fact they all fell slightly short of the double mark. But it was nice to put some fish on the mat, particularly after the disappointing start to the session. With darkness descending very quickly as the year draws out, by 4.30 p.m. I had packed away and was making my way back to the car.

For my third trip of the week, there was an unexpected rise in the temperature and the day was very mild indeed. My confidence level was soaring! I was fishing with roach dead baits, and had brought along a couple of extra fish to my usual supply, such was my expectation! However, as we know only too well as anglers, faith in itself does not put fish in the net. And so I ended the session with not even a tremble on the float.

As quickly as the weather had looked good, it plummeted back to its wintry nature with a vengeance for my fourth and final session. With overnight air temperatures falling below zero, daytime ones were not much to shout about either. Yet, as anglers we always hold onto that precious commodity called ‘hope’. And so, in spite of the conditions, no sooner had I cast out I had a run! However, I missed the fish on the strike and retrieved the roach, which apart from a small gash, looked pretty much the way it did when it was put on the rig in the first place.

As the afternoon wore on, and the rain from the north increased its rate of descent from the heavens (a roundabout way of saying it was pouring!) I was glad that I hadn’t left my umbrella at home. However, although I was tucked underneath it away from the rain, I was more than happy to venture out in the event that a fish decided to partake of my bait. As it happened, my wish did come true, and I found myself playing a lively pike, that fought on right to the moment that I slipped the net under it.

Although it was no ‘monster’ I was certainly happy to catch something after such a lean week. By the time 4.00-p.m. came round it was almost dark, and I was forced to pack away a little earlier than I would have liked. With such a miserable day weather-wise, even at lunchtime it was very grey and overcast.

And can you believe it, by the time I arrived home in Sedgley a short time later, the falling rain was slowly being replaced by white stuff. Yes, it had started to snow! And knowing the chaos it brings on the roads in the area at rush hour, I was very glad that I had arrived home before it could cause too many problems.

(Originally published November 2004)

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