Saturday, 17 November 2012

River Dee Piking - If you want to eat fish go the fishmongers!!

A warm welcome to this week’s blog, a week that reminded me to always go with my gut instinct and so it was proven right this week.  I start this weeks update though with some sad news I have been hearing recently about Eastern Europeans descending on the River Dee and taking fish for the pot.  I have witnessed this for myself of late and also heard reports of decent pike and a few to boot being taken away in carrier bags and have also been told from a reliable source of people setting up barbeque's on the bank cooking up roach of all fish.

As an angler who doesn’t take any fish away form the river I don’t quite get why people would take such beautiful creatures permanently away from their natural home but upon thinking about it and reading my licence the people involved, if they do have a licence, are not breaking any laws in taking the specified amount and size of fish stated in the EA licence, which is:

On rivers

On any given day,  you may only remove:
  • one pike of up to 65 cm;
  • two grayling of 30–38 cm;
  • up to a total of 15 small fish of up to 20 cm of the following native species: barbel; chub; common bream; common carp; crucian carp; dace; perch; pike; roach; rudd; silver bream; smelt; and tench.
Fish are measured from the tip of the snout to the fork of the tail.
If you remove any more fish than this, you are committing an offence and risk a substantial fine.

I have myself in the past caught many fish of a size to be “taken” from a 10lb salmon to double figure pike but it never entered my head to take such fish form the river, the pike control numbers of fish, not only the dace and the roach, but also their own numbers, there is a reason the saying “the only threat to a small pike is a bigger pike” came about and that is that the big pike predate on the smaller jacks and control their numbers, you remove one of the big pike you will initially see one thing, an increase in dace, but over the next year or so you will see a increase in the amount of jack pike and pike at this age are only thinking of one thing, getting bigger and eating.

A fellow Dee angler and blogger, Stuart Maddocks, once mentioned in an email to me as the pike on the River being like the lions on the Serengeti, and when you look deeply into it they most certainly are, they control the prey numbers as we all know but they also pick up and weak, diseased or injured fish and thus not only keep the prey number controlled but also keep the prey population healthy. 

The ecosystem on a river, or any body of water, is finely balanced and any dramatic changes do effect it, there is no doubt about that, even one pike removed has some type of effect but when people are reporting 2 or 3 being taken then it if far from ok as it also gets me thinking how many times have these individuals visited the river and taken fish.  Its like me on Saturday, I visited the river and had a cracking day, as you will find later on in the blog, I caught 3 pike ranging form 8 to 11lb and all were returned safely, had I taken all these pike home for the pot imagine the effect that would have on that local area of river. 

I am sorry to seem like I am ranting here but it’s a subject that is close to my heart and this blog is a personal account of my angling and my angling life and I feel this subject is important to me.  There is one part of this that really upsets me though and it’s the fact I now find myself looking for places to photograph my fish that gives nothing away about its location, I love posting pictures of my swim before I set up, I in fact have a cracking one from Saturday with the mist rolling down the river which I feel I cannot use.  I set my blog up as a means for anglers to see what potential the local waters in the northwest have but I feel I have no option but to “doctor” the pictures as to keep the location of these fish a secret, for their safety, a decision I never ever wanted to have to take but unfortunately one I am going to have to make.  I would hate for this blog to be abused in a way that it would lead to any of the amazing creatures that inhabit the river systems demise.  I just hope the Environment Agency officers are as vigilant and pro active as I have witnessed them over the last few years on the River Dee.

On to this weeks fishing

The plan all week was to get away from our previous weeks location, away from the hustle and bustle and the goldfish bowl setting that goes with the River Dee’s busier venues and escape to a quieter stretch of river where we could relax and take in all the nature around us and grab ourselves a big slice of good old mother nature.  We knew a trip away form the other location would probably see us struggling with numbers of fish in the net but now we have built up a picture of how different venues fish during the year we were expecting a less than prolific days sport but we knew there was a good chance of running into a grayling or two, so we set of with this fish as our target.

My dad joined us again, for the third trip on the run, it’s been a while since he has put that many trips together on the run but I am so glad he is coming more often now.  On Saturday swims were of a premium so my dad and I decided to fish the same area and I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time on the bank together, during the day we had some proper laughs and of course caught some fish.  My uncle set up further down stream on a peg that is a tough peg to fish and get to grips with but the fish are there and is a peg where you can literally catch anything from roach to barbel, this is the only thing that lets this location down the fact that one of the people on the trip is just that little too far away, on some occasions its been me and you do feel quite isolated at times during the day.

I arrived at the peg and immediately set my basket up in the shallow water and for once I was set up in no time as I was fishing the whip and I already had the rig stored from last weeks trip.  I started by introducing some hemp seed down the middle of the slow glide and my chosen bait for the day was maggot.  I was just about to make my first cast when I just got this feeling in my gut that I was doing the wrong thing, yes if I fished here I would undoubtedly catch dace and my chosen quarry the grayling but this voice inside me just kept saying I should be going for Mr Pike, I cant explain what it was it just felt right.

I started on the whip as I would need some bait for going for the pike any way and it took a while to get the fish going but eventually they did and I started to pick up some dace that were just the right size for a bait and of course with a steady stream of bait going in it wasn’t long before a greedy grayling moved into the trot and began to dominate the swim.  After around an hour and a half I had enough dace and to be honest the grayling had completely took over and I was sure I was catching the same one a few times.  It was time for the pike fishing to begin and so I set about setting up my pike paternoster rig.

My dad was having a cracker of a day already on the tip using his trust puddle chucker ledger rod and the ever reliable Kamasan maggot feeder he was picking up grayling after grayling, it seemed every time I looked round he was playing one.  After taking a few pictures of his fish I was all set to spend the rest of the day chasing my first targeted river croc.

  I was just about to grab my pike rod when I witnessed the most bizarre wildlife spectacle I have seen in a while, literally countless seagulls passing over head all heading inland from the sea.  I asked my uncle had he seen them later on in the day to which he replied “yes, and quite accurate they were too with their bombing run” whilst pointing at the countless droppings around his peg.

I made myself a promise there and then that I would spend the whole day targeting pike, no matter how slow the fishing got I would persevere with it, so I set off on my way hoping that my new tactics would yield some fruit and give me that much needed confidence that the rig was fishing correctly and I was doing things right.

I settled into a swim I have fished a number of times before for dace and been pestered with and caught the odd jack pike from in the past so I approached the swim with an air of confidence.  The swim itself looked better than I could have imagined as the recent floods had wedged a lot of dead drift wood around the sunken tree given this spot a mysterious darkness to it and it just had to have a resident pike lurking about.

As I have touched on in past updates my pike fishing this year has changed dramatically, in past years I went out dace fishing and if a pike turned up then fished for it, in hindsight this is probably not the most skilled way of catching pike and  being an angler who wants to have as many strings to his bow as possible I set myself a challenge this year of actually going out and targeting the pike as a species, fishing swims that haven’t had the pike lured into them by the constant line of dace being caught.  I will still take my pike rod with me on my dace trips as they can kill the swim when your dace fishing and do sometimes need to be politely moved on but I will certainly be having trips like Saturday aimed solely at catching these prehistoric fish.


The depth was marked and set with a slip knot on the line and it was time to lower a bait in, the float settled and began to almost dance on the surface of the water almost tantalising a pike into taking the bait, the float then settled a little and for a while it looked like no one was home then all of a sudden the float pricked into life and began moving erratically my senses were pricked that there was something happening in the murky depths and slowly the float began to move off into the flow.

I gave the float a count of 5 seconds before striking and immediately was hit with the solid resistance of a angry fish, the drag was set on the reel and to be honest had not been tested like this before, there was no time for tuning the drag instead I controlled the spool with my finger and managed to halt the pikes lunge, the pike then went solid, I knew it was a decent pike, the power of that run as evidence of this, this was obviously a craft pike but I had a trick or two up my sleeve and this pike fell for it hook line and sinker.  Instead of just pulling and pulling I let the line go completely slack and after a few seconds the line began moving slowly out as the pike swam from behind what ever obstacle it had got behind and the fight continued.  The pike made countless hard runs for this same snag again and again but I the difference this time was I knew it was there and was read for it.  The fight which seemed like a lifetime in reality was only around a minute or so long but what a rush!, my heart was pounding out of my chest! The pike on the bank it was time for a picture and to find how much this girl weighed.


The pike looked to have been feeding well and hit the scales at exactly 9lb on the nose, I was sure it was a double but was more than happy with my prize she was in mint condition with not a mark on her and as with all river fish her colours were deep and well defined and I took a few moments to take in this moment in my angling life, I have caught many pike in my years, even on the river alone, but this one was special, it could have weighed 2lb it would have still felt the same sense of achievement from this capture I was more than made up with it.

I found a nice slack to release the fish where I could hold her upright in my hands till she fully recovered and with one hand holding her tail she would tell me when she was ready to go and with one slow flick of her tail she moved of and held station in the shallows for a bit before gliding off into the main flow, see you again at the end of winter when you are a double.

One thing that will come with this type of fishing is a build of knowledge about how to tackle swims, how long to try the same swim for, how long to rest a swim before trying the same swim again?? I have found in the past you can fall on a “pod” of pike and have quite a frenetic time taking a few pike in a short space of time so I decided to chance my arm in the same swim again, as I mentioned earlier the stretch isn’t blesses with a great number of swim that I could move to any how so today would be a great lesson in working one swim.

I returned to swim and introduced another bait and like an expectant heron I held station and keeping with the bird theme had I been a peacock I would have had my wings fanned high and wide I was grinning like the Cheshire can and over the moon.

I tweaked my set up a bit by shallowing the rig up slightly so the float cocked in the water allowing me to see the bite early as I didn’t want any pike taking the bait and making its way to that obstruction to the back of the swim.  Again the float danced to the beat of the rivers drum as the odd rush of water created a eddy to whirl through the swim as if to whip the bait into life.  The bait fishing itself I began to relax and take in the world around me and it wasn’t long before a busy kingfisher whizzed past my swim the gin clear margins obviously making his life a lot easier. 

Time passed by and it just got to that time where you are thinking should I move and look for another swim when the float shot under the water and began to move slowly out, again I gave it a few seconds and struck, I felt the fish on for a second but then the rig came back at me, I was sure the fish hadn’t felt the prick of a treble and so I quickly reintroduced the rig, with a hungry pike around, missing its dinner, it wasn’t too long before the float again moved off and I struck into a proper angry pike.

This pike fought the whole way, with plenty of tail walking and head shaking it was not happy at all, this pike was getting near to be landed and I got a glimpse of it looked mean, some pike just look mean and this one sure did, its eye seemed weird to look at and only added to its tempestuous look.

 I was going to chin the pike out and it was of those moments where you think twice as no soon had I leaned down to grab her she twisted her jaws angrily in my direction, not happy at all and being calm in these situations is paramount, if you are not comfortable handling pike then chinning them is not recommended at all, I have caught a lot of pike so feel ok chinning them out but any new anglers to this branch of the sport I would say always net them and get comfortable holding and working with pike on the bank and almost certainly try and go out fishing with a experienced pike angler before you try it yourself. 

---The business end of Mr Pike and a place you need to concentrate and be confident in your work:

You need to be confident in holding the pike and working around the pikes mouth as not all pike are hooked in the front of the mouth and those trebles can get anywhere, as this pike proved with one treble in the top of its mouth and the other had actually come out the side of its gill cover so extra care was need in handling and unhooking, leaving trebles in pike is not an option.


As you can see the pike was a double figure specimen at 11lb and what an ugly and mean looking pike it was, it turned out it was blind in one eye and also had a pug mouth with its top jaw being quite well set back in regards to its lower jaw, it was a pike that only a mother pike could love, it was given a nickname but that will remain unmentioned as to not offend ant relativesJ.  Apart from its head it was again in top nick with not a mark on the fish and judging by its belly had been feeding well too, a bit like its captor.


Again the pike was RETURNED into the slack safe and well to go about his business and I joined my dad in a well earned cuppa and sausage barm.


I decided to rest the swim a while and wandered of to visit my uncle who was bagging dace with great regularity and also the odd grayling which was inevitable in such a glide and I spent a good hour sat with him chewing the fat on the days events, as I said the swim was out of the way so I spent longer on his peg than I normally would on a normal trip but it also gave me time to rest the swim I was in for the pike.

Returning to my vigil a the pike swim gave me a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of working life and time to think about how fortunate I am and how good life is at the moment for me, too many people dwell on the bad times but don’t appreciate the good times in both angling and life and I was the happiest man alive on Saturday afternoon.

The day wore and I thought I was don’t for the day when the float moved off again and I was into another pike which again felt like no push over, it certainly wasn’t fighting any less than the others and actually went right out into the main flow, another lesson learned for the future the tackle I am using is more than good enough and it cushioned the right amazingly and had more than enough backbone to control the fight.  The pike back in front of me it wasn’t long before it was mine and safely on the bank and waiting to be weighed.

This fish went 8lbs, unfortunately my electronic scales have played up so I couldn’t get exact pounds and ounces figures for them but using my uncles trusty scales gave me all I needed.


So ended the session on three pike in total and three what I would call proper pike, my dad continued to pick up grayling after grayling on the feeder and even the odd trout.

While my uncle ended the day with a superb net of all dace and returned countless grayling up to around a pound and half which he said would have took his final net over the magical 20lb barrier for the second time this season.

Uncles net.

Thank you for taking the time to read my angling blog,

Its tight lines from me,



  1. Great blog Danny.
    To be honest I suggest anyone keeps their pike spots under wraps mate, for a start they don't stand pressure but nowadays also for the reason you mention.
    I know think that it is a waste if time but if you ever do see any wrong doing please report it to the EA, these things are logged and the more info the better

  2. I learned so many new things on your blog, thanks!