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Dead Baiting for Pike - The Journey And The Lessons Learnt
I like to think of this blog as a honest and frank account of my angling, good times and the bad whilst incorporating my own honest views and opinions on the fishing sessions i do so i thought it would be a good idea in this weeks introduction to summarise the past few weeks dead baiting for pike and the lessons i have learnt along the way.
My adventure into the world of dead baiting for pike began only 3 months ago and for the first two weeks it was a steep learning curve with many hours spent on the bank with not a single sign of a run and i must admit i adopted a chuck it and chance it mentality relying on spots i had seen pike activity months earlier and expecting the pike to hunt out my bait no matter where i placed it.
The next week and with two weeks of blanks under my belt and getting close to 20 hours worth of pike fishing into my journey I was determined as ever to accomplish my target of one pike on a dead bait and i guess at this point it would be a time where it would be easier to call it a day and move onto something new but I had the grit between my teeth and I could feel be beginning to fall in love with the mystery of dead baiting for pike. At this point i did begin to question if my tactics where right and a chance conversation with Garry, a seasoned piker, gave me a great deal of confidence to know that what i was doing was right.
This confidence boost along with a few tips gave me a added sense of expectation on my next trip and it was rewarded with 6 runs and 5 fish on the bank and the next day what i saw as my first proper pike of this dead baiting in a fish of over 8lb. Returning to this same place the next week i was fortunate enough to land my first double figure stillwater pike of just over 10lb, i was on cloud 9. The next week saw me struggle for a bit in horrendous winds but using a bit of water craft i winked out a fish to save a blank.
This session led onto what i see as the height of the dead baiting in a social session with Garry and Ste, a session that surpassed all my expectations with us all catching and for myself personally a fish i never thought i would get near this year in a new personal best still water pike of 13lb 8oz. At this point i was overcome with all things piking it was on my mind 24/7 and it saw me on the bank at every opportunity even of it was just a few hours after work, many of these short session resulting in runs and the odd fish on the bank and it was a great feeling to know i had gone from a angler who did not have a clue to a stage where i was expecting to catch.
So what have i learnt? well these weeks pike fishing have certainly taught me patience as after what has been a good few years trotting for dace and chub waiting hours for a bite i did find hard at first and struggled at times to keep focused. Time on the bank dedicated to piking has allowed me to judge just how long to give each spot before moving on and what spots have more potential than others for producing pike. Dedication and putting in the hours is something i feel i never lack but this time has taught me to spend time productively by mapping out depths as finding deeper water or slight depressions can make all the difference with this game and of course always remembering that what is below the water is just as important as the features you can see above it.
Bait wise i have to say i have been very fortunate as i have caught on a wide variety of baits so do not feel attached to one bait in particular which i can see being an easy trap to fall into. During my time piking this year i have caught fish on Sprats, Mackerel, Sardine, Herring and Smelt. There are many opinions on the nature of pike but in my opinion they have set feeding spells where all fish in a local area switch on, using two rods i have say there too many times with no action and then had almost simultaneous bites on both rods, i know this is not my own discovery i mean it more as i subscribe to the theory.
Looking towards next year, yes i am already thinking about it, i am certainly looking at refining my approaches and being better equipped on the bank, a bigger deeper landing net is a must have along with a decent weigh sling, aside form these i will certainly be making my own traces next year and with my first attempt not looking too shabby i have to say i am looking forward to catching a pike on my own traces. Researching piking has got my head full of refinements i want to make and next year i will certainly be looking to experiment with adding fish oils to my baits but above all else there is one area i need to improve on dramatically and that is converting runs into fish on the bank i have lost as many pike as I have caught and this is something i am hoping refining my own rigs with my choice of hooks will help reduce.
Well i hope you have enjoyed reading about my piking this winter as much as i have enjoyed the challenge of catching the fish and with that we move onto the fishing i have done this week. .
Wednesday 3.30pm-6.30pm - Dead baiting For Pike - End of the Road??
Sat in work i could hear the pike clock ticking down and with a sharp frost hitting for two mornings solid i knew come the evening temperatures would again plummet down towards freezing, an opportunity not to be missed. A quick text to Garry and a meet up time was arranged to fish from 4pm till dark in the hope of a last gasp end of season pike. I was first to arrive and had a cheeky chuck in the snag swim hoping to pick up a quick bite but with now action coming in 15 minutes i promptly left the swim for Garry when he arrived, a popular pike hot spot i had fished on our last trip it was only right for him to fish it this time. I moved along a settled into a deep run along a set of reeds with one herring bait presented on the bottom and another sprat presented off bottom to drift slowly.
There was no action from casting till around 20 minutes later when Garry arrived and settled into the snag swim so it was time for a recast and a quick chat. The conversation, always fishing related how i like it, was centred around the thought that the fish had moved off to spawn, whilst talking i am always aware of the two rods in the water and i guess watching to pikers chatting you could be forgiving for thinking they don't get on how ignorant they look always looking away when the others talking, it was during one of these glances i noticed a slight dip on my sprat bait rod.
A short stroll along to the swim confirmed the interest which had gone from a few dips to the float beginning to move along the top. The float never went under instead just bobbed along the top which normally is a sure sign that its a small jack that has taken the bait, i gave it as long as i dared before setting the hooks. The fish came instantly to the top, a tiny jack around 3lb wet, not the pike i had come for but still it was a fish on the bank.
The baits returned it was a good hour or so of inactivity as we moved into dusk before any more action with my right hand herring bait moving lazily into the middle channel in a very positive way indeed, a strong strike was met with resistance of what felt a nice fish before as soon as the battle had got going the bait came back at me, dam, another lost fish to add to the list and certainly food for thought for next season.
In hindsight i should have changed my hooks there and then but in the heat of the moment i cast straight back out as we was well on the way into dark now and i didn't want to miss a moment as it felt bang on for a bite. The minutes passed by and Garry moved up from his snag swim for the final 20 minutes of the session, two anglers hooked on their angling sat in the darkness squinting to see the pike floats, its safe to say we stuck it out till the last. Right on last knockings we were just ready to reel in when i said i am going to give it 10 more minutes as i felt it was going to go, it just felt right and bang on queue the left hand rod slid away. The bite was again a solid run and i left the float to slide away before setting the hooks, striking hard i was amazed as the rod hooped over and all hell broke loose as the pike jumped clear of the water in the reeds putting up one hell of a fight, moving closer in hugging the bottom it felt a very nice fish indeed, shaking its head in defiance sent shock waves up my arm as it felt like the fish had come off time and time again. Eventually the fish came to the surface and revealed itself to be a pike between 7-10lb i would estimate coming towards the waiting net he had one final head shake and with that spat the hooks!!, i was absolutely gutted i have to say and as i mentioned above the losing of fish after striking is something i need to look into for next years campaign.
That was it for the fishing as we packed away and walked back to the cars and as i did a strange feeling came over, a strange feeling of the end, as if i knew that was it for the pike fishing and would be the last time i would be visiting this location this season, it felt the right time to call time on the deadbaiitng, for this year.
Sunday Morning 6am-12am - Pole Fishing The River Weaver
Saturday morning saw us visiting Atomic Baits Angling Shop in Northwich to purchase our Northwich Anglers Licences for the coming year and to pick up some bait for our session the following day, as always my order was 2 pints of white and a bag of uncooked hemp. After purchasing the licences we headed off to look at some of the stretches on the card, first was the River Dane. The river dane in general does not receive a great deal of angling pressure and as such a lot of the stretches, barring the popular cotton and manor farm areas around Holmes Chapel, are quite over grown and its a case of making a swim when you arrive, certainly not a place for anyone looking for the luxury of pallet pegs and sausage barms delivered to your peg. I guess you ever like it or hate it but i guess the fact i love the naturalistic nature of the river dane and river fishing in general is why i love it and walking her banks most would have seen a wall of trees and brambles but to the keen eye it looked like an anglers Paradise of hidden overgrown swims and unpressurised fishing.
We next moved onto the River Weaver to take a look at what this had to offer and was instantly amazed at the organisation of this club as a good mile or so of river had a drivable road and three spacious car parks situated all along its length, a far cry from the roads you see on Warrington Anglers rivers. Driving to the top end of the stretch i was taken back by how beautiful the place looked, this was enhanced by the fact there was not a breath of wind and their was still reminiscences of a overnight frost to set the scene off nicely. In truth the weaver is about as cushy as river fishing gets as you could literally fish out of your car window the pegs are that close to the car park, i was dying to wet a line and even more so when i spoke to an angler fishing who had already had a few fish. Below is a picture of the River Weaver all the picture i took on the morning will be uploaded to the Blogs Facebook page tonight.
This seasons river fishing really has been a case of feast or famine as on Saturday morning we sat in my uncles plotting our trip and we were really stuck with what to do, do we go the River Dee for dace and risk the expected tides ruining the session, go the dane to assess the potential for chub and dace or go the Weaver for a real taste of the unknown. The River Dee was really touch and go as it was already over the ideal level we have set for trips there and the tide coming would only increase these levels, this along with local reports the river was well coloured and debris coming down saw us drop this as an option and we settled on a plan of setting up on the Weaver with a view of packing in midday and heading the Dane for the last few hours, two birds with one stone. The picture below is a sight and smell i was not expecting to experience again this season as I set about preparing my hemp for the session the following day.
Arriving at the car park on the Weaver we could see the river looked just as beautiful in the dim twilight as she had in all her glory the previous day, walking the banks provided us with our first dilemma in where to fish? the banks and the actual weaver itself to look at lacks any features you associate with other rivers such overhanging trees and snags and eddies as such so it was a case of picking two swims and beginning the journey.
My tactic for the day was to fish maggot and hemp fed in ground bait and run the float over it with the pole while my uncle chose to fish the stick float. Setting up we found it quite similar to a huge canal in there was a steep drop off a few metres out which seemed to level out around 7-10m. I fed hemp slightly downstream hoping to spread the bait a little to draw fish over a large area and the groudbait was there as we had heard the venue holds some good bream and skimmers.
This is the first time i have ever really fished a river on the pole barring a few times on the Dee when i tried and failed with an idea to improve my catch rate so i was not confident at all going into the session but was very excited to learn a new way of fishing that if truth be told i will have to learn and learn well as it will make up the majority of my fishing on the weaver for silvers as feeder fishing is not really my thing.
My uncle was first into fish and it was a baby gudgeon that claimed the crown of first weaver fish, not the biggest fish in the river, maybe even the smallest but it was a start. My uncle had put a few bites together with small roach coming at regular intervals where as i still remained bite less trying to get to grips with feeding the pole and keeping the bait going down in a straight line. A few tangles and re-rigging ensued from myself but eventually after taking a minute to think over my tactics and feeding i began to catch the odd roach.
Over the next few hours my uncle began to get fish with regularity before they would move out for a while and then move back in again, all fish were small roach. I had by now got to grips with the pole and was getting bites steady and i was really made up to have gone from not catching to getting bites steady, again all were small roach but this was irrelevant my target for the day was to get some bites and i had achieved that and it gave me a solid base to build on an refine my tactics in the future. I found fishing the pole exciting and different and i really enjoyed it and i must admit i was a little disappointed when 12am rolled round.
Sunday Afternoon 1pm - 5pm - Stick Float Fishing on the River Dane
Loading the car on the weaver was a piece of cake as it was literally situated behind my car and in no time at all we was on our way to the River Dane. This ease of moving was one of the reasons we got the card as you can literally be fishing the Dane and struggling and easily pack in and move on another river in 10 minutes sometimes on the Warrington Anglers River Dane at Holmes chapel you would feel as if you had no option to stick it out if the chub were not having it as there are very few locations to drop back on, river wise.
Arriving at the dane and setting up in my swim there were signs all round that the River season is nearing its end none more so that this patch of daffodils standing proud in the midday sun, a sure sign times are changing. The dane is different in every way to the weaver what with its intimate secluded swims and steady paced glides its river that just cries out to have a stick float run down it. With this in mind i set up my 13ft trotting rod armed with 5lb Drennan float fish line and a 1lb 7oz hook length, i wouldn't normally go as light as this but i knew this part of the dane held all species of river fish such as dace, perch and roach along with the chub so i set up on the light side to give myself the best chance of a few bites if i started to get snapped i could always go straight through with the 5lb line.
Setting up i had tricked bait into the swim on a line i expected the fish to hold leaving the dangerous run along the snags till later on in the day if bites did not come, my plan was to draw the fish into the middle rather than chasing them, set up ready it was time to make that magical first cast into the unknown on a new section of river, this is what river fishing is all about for me, discovery and the unknown.
First trot down the pre baiting whilst setting up had worked a treat as the float buried and i was met with a stubborn fish that left me in no doubts as to which species i was connected to as it darted for the nearside cover, a chub it just had to be. Up came a pair of white lips and a chub slid into the net, a chub first cast and being only a pound or so i was optimistic we had a few of these fish around.
The next few casts were filled with optimism and rightly so as the very next cast i suffered a hook pull at the net form another chublet and the very next cast landed a small dace. This action was not confined to my swim either as my uncle visited my peg early on to say he had been snapped twice and landed 3 chub. I was catching the odd chub but not with and regularity they were obviously feeding well judging by the mouth full of food in this chubs gob.
The session continued with me picking up the odd fish but my uncle was into a serious shoal and as night fell i could hear him fighting with fish after fish where as my swim seemed to fade with time, my thinking is the fish just followed the line of bait above my peg and this a long with my uncle being really good a trotting and presenting a bait made for an impressive 16lb net of fish come packing up. I actually felt like i had done better than the final net looked which i guess is a good thing, i think.
We left the bank more than made up with our efforts and it did leave me wondering why we only catch chub from 3lb upwards on the Warring river dane stretch and why we never catch any small chublets. It is a question that does get you thinking, maybe they reproduce on another stretch and move onto ours when they reach a certain size or maybe the big fish just out compete the small, it does make for an interesting thought though.
till next time i wish you all