Normally I start my weekly blog talking about something that has caught my attention or imagination throughout the previous week but this week’s session requires no such introduction so I will be getting straight into writing about this weekend’s adventures on the bank and what an adventure it was a real red letter day.
Last week’s capture of a lovely pike played heavy on my mind throughout the week and it lit a spark in me that had been dormant for some years now and that was my love of pike fishing. As a kid growing up next to the Bridgewater I used to spend hours and hours fishing for the pike lurking in its then murky depths. In the past year I wouldn’t say that I have intentionally gone out to find pike more they have found me. All throughout the summer we have been hounded by small jacks where ever we have roamed on the river and slowly but sure the size of the pike has got larger culminating in last week’s decent fish.
My tactics so far for these fish have been to have a pike rod ready set up should one of these fish arrive in the swim and ruin the dace fishing and solely as a method for moving them out of the swim and relocating them further up the bank. Don’t confuse this with me not liking the fish as my thoughts on these fish could not be further from the truth they are easily one of the most beautifully marked fish in the river and is there a fish bar the barbel that fights harder? Either way for sheer power the pike takes some beating.
With that in mind I made myself a promise that come the weekend I would fish for silvers till 2pm and spend the rest up until dusk purposely trying for a pike and I must admit I was looking forward all week to seeing that pike float come alive and slowly sink under as the pike took the fish into its watery depths.
Saturday seemed to take an age to come round and as normal nature saved its rain for Thursday night meaning the river was carrying a good couple of feet by the time we arrived on the bank early on Saturday morning. We both where amazed at the clarity of the water with so much extra water on it usually means the rivers carries a fair bit of sediment in it but this seemed absent on the day.
The first fish of the day was a nice dace which came as no surprise as the swim I had chosen had a fair amount of pace to it so much so I expected to also encounter the odd grayling throughout the day as well. The water being up I decided to fish a quite heave float but found myself missing a lot of bites and believe it or not actually ended up fishing a 6 number 4 float in the end and it worked a treat with every knock on the float resulting in the float darting under and another dace added to the daily total.
I would normally say the dace on the river are pristine but looking back at the photos one thing I remember now about Saturday was the unusual amount of damaged fish with tail and scale damage I caught on Saturday. Some of the damage was obviously the work of the local pack of pike but others where less easy to pin down like the picture below, was it a pike or a cormorant damage on the fish??
I continued to pick up dace regularly throughout the day and basked in some glorious February sunshine in what was a beautiful day to be on the bank and I also met a few people who also post on the maggot drowners forums who recognised me from my posting on there and it was a pleasure to put a few more faces to forum names. The day continued to progress through to dinner time and beyond with both me and my uncle picking up fish, me bagging up on dace and my uncle also catching dace mixed with the odd trout that of course homed in on the steady stream of maggots flowing down stream.
Before I knew it, it was 1.30pm and I remember thinking what work didn’t go so quick and also remembered my decision about having a proper go for a river pike from 2pm and in that very instant I managed to snag on the sunken tree I had been trotting down to all day no problem and managed to lose all the rig bar my float, a sign to move over the pike rod??, I just had to be.
Over the last few years since getting back into my fishing I have made quite a few purchases but none have been as versatile as the Shimano barbell rod 1.75 test curve rod I purchased a year or so ago. This rod coupled with a Shimano bait runner reel loaded with 10lb line has so far been used for catching barbel from the river Dee, chub from the river Dane, Carp and Tench in spring and summer when used as a sleeper rod and now made its debut as a pike rod a truly magnificent piece of kit.
The rod set up I was quickly casting a bait into the water hoping to lure the interest of a hungry pike that may have been attracted into the area by my trotting throughout the day and was just waiting for the right opportunity to strike and claim its afternoon snack. The float lay motionless on the top of the water as the ripple caused by the slight upstream breeze that had developed lapped against its flanks and I sat back at poured myself a well-earned cup of coffee.
Half way through taking my first sip of my brew the pike float came alive and I knew straight away something was about causing the bait to become agitated and in a split second the float cocked and sunk below the surface. When float fishing baits for pike there are some old tales that say you can leave the float to go under and make yourself a brew before striking, these are old, outdated methods it is much better to strike as soon as the float goes under than risk a deeply hooked pike, in my opinion I would rather loose the fish than deeply hook the pike and as a rule of thumb I strike as soon as I think the pike has got a solid grip of the prey.
The fish didn’t half put up a stink of a fight as all pike seem to do but a few glances of the fish below the surface showed it to be a small jack pike but boy it fought above its weight. After an intense battle that saw the pike tail walk and make many darts for the middle I managed to get some control over the fish and quickly netted the pike. The fish topped the scales at 5lb 4oz and looked to have been feeding well.
Like all larger fish they need time to recover and I found a slack piece of water upstream to return the fish safely to allow it to recover before moving back into the deeper part of the river to recover this is just as important part of fishing for pike fishing as it is for carp and barbell we fish for.
The fish returned I would normally have got back to my trotting but i was determined to stick to the plan and quickly put out another bait and the float literally hit the water and within at most a minute the float was again heading for the depths. I struck early again and was met with solid resistance as the fish kept very deep and was very hard to gain any line on and was in totally another league to the previous pike and I knew deep down that this pike if I managed to land would easily beat my river pb of 5lb 4oz.
The fight of this fish was a battle of wills with the fish making hard lunges which where cushioned by the smooth action of the rod and the drag on the reel being set to allow me to apply pressure but also allow the fish to take line under pressure without snapping the line or having enough slack to reach the sanctuary of the many snags the line the river bed and banks. The fish eventually tired and we got a first glance of the fish and it just had to be my first ever river double.
The fish was well behaved and slid nicely into the landing net and onto the sort ground behind my box and the hooks where nicely situated in the pikes mouth and easy to unhook which again goes to show the importance of striking early. The fish for all my weighing and re weighing just wouldn’t go over the magical 10lb mark and I eventually had to settle for the fact the fish was not the double I had thought but weighed 9lb 14oz i must admit to being slightly disappointed till my uncle pointed out that I had just banked two decent pike on my first proper river trip for them.
The pike was again returned to the same place I returned the last one and I had to think god help anyone turning up late for a few hours trotting if they pick that swim. I took a minute to finish of my brew that was now stone cold and although I don’t take sugar any more in my brew it couldn’t have tasted sweeter and the smile on my face was going to take some removing.
The brew gulped down it was time to chance my arm and see if I could winkle another pike from the swim and this time I took my time and gave it a good five minutes before introducing another bait and as I did I realised all the fish in my keep net where right on the top which is in my book a sure fire sign a pike is about so I must admit my confidence levels rose considerably as I cast the bait out. The water was gin clear and I remember seeing the bait glistening in the sun in the upper layers and I felt a sharp tug on the line almost like a bite from another fish had I been touch ledgering and I thought a pike must have missed the bait which is they never seem to do when I am trotting but it must happen and then in one heart stopping moment a pike launched its self out of the water as it nailed the bait and I couldn’t not believe my eyes.
The fish again headed for the bottom as all bigger fish do and I must admit until it hit the net I was convinced it was the previous one I had just returned, this was till I saw the depth of the fish and the length of it and realised it was a lot bigger and if this want a double I was ready to throw myself in as bait for the next one but thank fully this wasn’t needed as the fish topped the scales at 13lb 10oz a challenge I set at the start of the winter was to catch a proper river pike and I would consider this to be that objective achieved.
What a hour on the bank and it will be a long time I think before I have a hour like it again it was one of them moments that I think don’t come along that often but when they do you have to appreciate them and remember them when you are there and struggling for a bite.
I spent the next hour with a bait in the swim but alas nothing was showing and I decided to spend the last half an hour watching my uncle with a pike bait in the slack and low and behold the float again sailed away and I managed to bank another jack pike around 5-6lb I estimated.
We both packed up after this fish and began to compare nets my uncle had accumulated a decent bag of fish weighting over 14lb in a day that say bites coming all through the day for him with the odd surprise trout thrown in.
Uncles net and pics:
It was then over to my net and I weighed in over 11lb but I did pack in trotting at 1.30pm I hastened to add lol
My net and video
All in all a day on the bank that a year ago I could have only dreamed of, a year ago just the net of dace would have been enough but to take that and over 30lb of pike as well it will be a day I will never forget!!!
Till next time one over the moon angler