The magnificent Severn (pike article, entry 383)

When we keep repeating ourselves in life it makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing. When we keep repeating ourselves in life it makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing. But when it comes to fish welfare it is important that we keep banging the drum. However I think we need to be aware that the issue of fish handling, care and safety is often no more than a smokescreen for anglers to have a go at each other. Say for example, Joe is jealous of Fred. Joe doesn’t say he’s jealous so instead he looks for ways to undermine Fred, to turn people against him. So when you hear that Fred keeps his fish out of the water too long, puts barbel in a keepnet, doesn’t use an unhooking mat, sits too far from his rods, etc boring etc, remember that just because you hear something it doesn’t mean to say that it’s true. But even if it is, so what. We want to educate not gossip, backstab and criticise. That’s why if we really truly care about the fish, as opposed to simply scoring personal points, then we will promote fish welfare in a positive way that avoids the junk that exists in the angling world.


I hate to try and make out a special case for any species of fish, because they all deserve respect, but if you wanted to single the pike out then you could certainly produce a convincing argument. Amongst the fish that swim the waters of the British Isles they must surely be the most misunderstood. They’re not fish that you can just ‘have a go at’, they need specialised tackle and equipment and I always urge people that want to fish for them, but are inexperienced, to do their homework. At the very least visit a website such as the Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain and if possible attend a pike beginner’s day that some clubs run. Or maybe join the PACGB and learn from more experienced anglers. If you are fortunate to be able to fish with someone, then that’s brilliant. Do as much preparation as possible and then when you hit the bank you will be confident. And as you have already guessed, it was pike that I set my stall out for in this week’s article. And that’s my opening swim on the right, on the middle Severn.

I use the word ‘swim’ but it wasn’t a recognised angling spot in the sense that it had a dug-out or a platform constructed. In fact it was wild and overgrown and hadn’t seen an angler for a long time. But I wasn’t looking for comfort, level ground or open water in front of me. Overhanging willows with the main flow a couple of lengths out and I’m thinking ‘pike’. And even before I cast my second rod out, the sardine deadbait was picked up by a fish. Watching the float tremble, tremor, move and finally dip, I struck into what immediately I knew was a very good fish. After a short but extremely spirited fight I got the fish to the net and was about to claim it as my own when it flipped, out came the hooks and I was left watching a monster pike flick its tail and disappear back into the river. When I say ‘monster’ everything is relative and I’m talking a very good ’20’ which is more than a decent fish for the middle Severn.


I was devastated as only an angler can understand. Amongst my many emotions was one that made me feel like going home! But I very quickly put that one to bed and I baited the swim up in anticipation of returning later in the day. Not that I expected another bite of the cherry as far as the crocodile was concerned, but she may have some of her mates around: birds of a feather flocking together and all that. So out went brown crumb, live maggots, dead maggots, fish pieces and an equal mix of river water and SBS predator groundbait mix. That’s the mix on the left. It smells awful, which is ok because it’s been developed by predator anglers and not Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver or Rachel Allen. In other words we can’t apply the same criteria to fish food that we do to stuff that’s meant for human consumption. Once baited I gathered my gear, made my way up the mud-covered bank and dropped into another swim. This time it was a ‘proper’ peg and I was able to set my chair up instead of roughing it in the undergrowth.

It was a case of deja vu, as within minutes, I had another take. After my previous encounter I just wanted to land this one but as I struck I had very definite mixed feelings. I knew I was into another decent pike and the thought of losing one again was just too much. I have never felt so emotional in my fishing! As the fish came to the net and then twisted and turned heading back into the river I was just so grateful I was still connected to it. I thought my emotional roller coaster would end the moment I lifted the net into the fish but I was shaking like a leaf. This is not me at all, maybe I’m going soft in my old age.




Or perhaps it’s just the prospect of doing business with big middle Severn pike that sets me all a-quiver. Anyway, although this one was pushing ’20’ it didn’t make the magical mark. But nevertheless I was more than happy to pose with such a marvellous river fish instead of watching it slink away before we had time to get acquainted properly. After the commotion I headed back to the first swim. By now it had time to settle and this was confirmed as I again had a run first cast. As you can see from the photograph below, this one was much smaller. It nearly did a disappearing act though like the first fish, but on this occasion the hooks came out just as I slipped the net under the pike. Very close but just the right side of disappointment!


And that was that as far as fish action was concerned. I did have a bird commotion though as a female goosander surfaced just a metre out from where I sat. Previously unaware of my presence, the sudden realisation I was there caused her to panic big-time. Then suddenly a dozen or so birds joined in the mad exodus to get out of my space. The resultant wash reminded me of fishing the lower Severn when a boat has just passed, such was the wave effect of the birds in panic. Other birds seen during the session included kingfisher, raven and sparrowhawk.

And finally if you are on facebook then check out my new page that I started recently. It is my life on facebook, including of course, lots of angling related stuff. I have been an avid tweeter for a while now and linking the two together is ideal. In technology terms I have a dual social networking presence. Sounds fancy but either way it would be great to connect with you on there! (Originally published October 2010)

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