Keeping the best till last (pike, entry 503)

With the traditional deadbait season running out fast I decided to get a cluster of sessions in before it was too late. Although a lot of venues I fish for pike don’t have a rule on when you can start and finish, I tend to not go beyond the middle of March.

Always up for a challenge, plus three consecutive mornings free, I set my stall out for a canal assault. The bits I fish do have pike in there but the proverbial needle in a haystack comes to mind. That’s where the challenge comes in. I’ve had fish to double figures but the achievement is not in size but actually just catching something.

Pike floats in my tackle box
Pike floats in my tackle box

However I remained fish-less with just one little bob of the float the only action to show for my early morning starts. Still, that’s fishing for you and certainly on the sections of canal I tackled. I love pike fishing with a float, I find it really exciting and deadbaiting under one is definitely my favourite method for the species.

On this occasion though I didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing the trembles, shakes and tremors that lead to a fish on the bank. In my defence though I can point to the conditions, and you can witness a partly-frozen canal in the video that you can view on YouTube.

A very misty start to the day
A very misty start to the day

For my fourth session I switched to a lake. It’s one I do visit on an occasional basis, and although the fish are only small, it’s a pleasant place to spend a few hours and the nature scene there is pretty decent. As far as I’m concerned I’ve always seen the wider package of angling.

As a lover of the British natural world, even when I blank I get something from being out there. I didn’t know If I was going to be able to cast a line though, as on arrival I found the lake was frozen. However it was only 95% covered in ice so I just headed for the 5% that wasn’t. Sorted!

At last, a fish
At last, a fish

There was a thick cold mist as I began the session, but around lunchtime the sun finally won through, and that changed everything. It also coincided with the small pike that you can see in the photo above. Not quite the world’s smallest pike, but not far off! And at least I had broken the fish-less run I was on so I was certainly thankful.

A siskin feeding in the mist
A siskin feeding in the mist

Even when the whole place was shrouded in mist I could hear birds such as raven and stock dove calling. Then when a flock of c30 siskins descended on a common alder to the left of my swim I took advantage and captured them on the camcorder. You can see them in the accompanying video

Playing pike number two
Playing pike number two

By late afternoon it was a glorious day, very spring-like and in total contrast to the start of the session. I also banked my second fish of the outing, and like the first one, I captured it all for the video. The pike, by the way, were tempted by a bleak and a small roach. My best fish from the venue is 16lb, but that was some years ago now.

The size of the pike has definitely plummeted and whereas I used to catch doubles on a regular basis I haven’t had a 10lb’er for some considerable time. But I’m not aware of any reason for that, other than natural, so it might just be ‘one of those things’. But in the meantime every time my float sails away I wonder what’s on the other end.

Pike number two on the mat
Pike number two on the mat

It’s been a few years since I was at school, but a trip to Dudley to buy some glass saw me pass my old educational establishment. Lots of memories and good ones at that. But from an angling perspective I remember buying maggots many times on my way home. This was back in the mid-1970’s.

There was a shop, sadly long gone, on the way from school called (if my memory is correct, and I’m sure it is on this occasion) Peter Fenwick’s. Then a couple of years ago, on one of our school reunions, one of the girls said she remembered the time she carried my maggots for me on the bus all the way back to my house.

Sir Gilbert Claughton Grammar School
Sir Gilbert Claughton Grammar School

It must have been love on her part for a non-angling girl to embark on such an act, although I couldn’t recall the event. Obviously carrying a pint of mixed maggots had left a strong mark on her mind. Just think, she could have married me then she’d have had them in the fridge. And I mean in the fridge, not just in a box…

The Severn, fishable at last
The Severn, fishable at last

My final session of the week coincided with the Severn dropping and becoming more pike-friendly again after another spell in the fields. The river has been a disappointment to me this winter in terms of conditions, as I was intending to do a lot more on there than I have been able to do. But on the few occasions I have been able to fish it, it’s been quite kind to me.

Up well before normal life even begins to think about stirring, I was on the bank at first-light. With the water 4.3C I was pleased to have a run within minutes. However I pulled out of it on the strike. With the cold conditions I should have given the fish that extra moment or two. But to emphasise – it’s always better to pull out of a pike than to deep-hook one.

Leaving the best till last
Leaving the best till last

Wondering whether I would get another bite of the cherry, the pike gods smiled on me at lunchtime, as one of the bleak deadbaits was picked up and the float began to move across the surface of the water. I wanted to make sure I got the timing of the strike right this time. And I did – but only just as the hooks came out in the net.

Lifting the pike from the water I was definitely one of those happy campers. And it just goes to show how perseverance had won through, as my first three sessions were blanks. And also that fine line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’ where one good fish makes all the difference. I’ve been enjoying my chub fishing of late and that’s what I’m going to be after again next week. See you then. (Published March 2 2013)

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