One of the most important elements of angling is watercraft. And whilst anyone with the money can go out and buy all the top equipment and become an instant fisherman, all the money in the world could not buy watercraft. This is something that comes with experience and time, as the angler develops an understanding of the environment in which he places himself. And to say that we have to start to think like a fish is not overstating it either.
Watercraft is looking at a venue, and rather than just seeing a body of water, to take in the features that are alongside it and beneath its surface. The former can be seen with the natural eye, the latter may involve a little preparation work, but nevertheless it’s about building up a mental picture of the venue in question. It’s about being aware of the overhanging trees, knowing the depth of any given point, where the drop-off’s are, the bars, the gullies (if any) and the nature of the bed.
Of course, all this takes time and we do live in an instant society where people don’t always like the idea of preparation. But in the case of angling, the more we think it through rather than just turn up and cast out, the more successful we will be. Angling can be hard enough as it is at times without making it harder.
Which brings me to the session that I am writing about this week. The lake is a large one and has a reputation as one that does not give up its pike that easily. In fact blanks are more the norm rather than a day that produces fish. And certainly, looking at the venue, the less experienced angler could certainly be forgiven for thinking, ‘where on earth do I start?’
But having spent some time getting to know the lake, I know the underwater topography, not to mention the features this side of the surface. Therefore with winter fast drawing in, I headed for the deeper side of the water as this is where the smaller shoal fish (and therefore the pike that feed on them) will be drawn as the temperatures fall.
I set up in a peg that had a sharp drop-off less than a rod length out and a dense cluster of reeds (albeit dying ones at this time of the year) to my right. I put the roach bait directly in front of me, and the sprat just off the edge of the reeds. After three hours of total inactivity, I switched the roach bait to the other side of the reeds where a concrete structure jutted out into six feet of water. This looked very promising and so it came as no surprise when, within minutes, I found myself hooking and landing a small pike.
I gave it the best part of a further hour, but there was another peg that I really wanted to try, and so I gathered everything together and set off to walk around the far side of the lake. The peg in question has no features above the surface, but there is a steep drop-off a couple of lengths out into more than four metres of water.
Very often I find when piking, that you get an instant take, and so it was that within minutes of casting out that the roach rod had a run. I find it very exciting watching the float as it starts to tremble and shudder, eventually running across the water as the pike takes the bait. It’s vital that we strike at the right time, no one likes to have a pike that has taken the bait deep.
But there were no worries on that front, as this fish (and all the others I caught) was hooked in the mouth, and removing the hooks was a simple affair. After a good fight I eventually netted a pike that was much bigger than the first one of the session. Returning it to the water, it swam off to fight another day. It’s great to catch fish of course, but watching them as they flick their tails as they head back into the deeps is also a pleasant experience – for both the angler and the fish!
I caught a third pike, this time on a chub section, to round off the day. As it now starts to get dark from 4.00 pm onwards since the clocks went back, venues that do not allow night fishing are limited in many ways. This was why I had begun this session earlier in the day rather than my usual approach of turning up just before lunchtime. But what had caught me the fish was not necessarily being on the bank longer, but rather the application of watercraft. Never underestimate its importance.
(Originally published November 2005)