As the days become shorter and the temperature drops below freezing the general consensus is to stay at home and keep warm, perhaps sit in front of an open fire...? Not me. The snow was the real icing on the cake ;)
The white stuff began to fall late on Thursday the 17th January and is still falling to a lesser extent as I type. Motorways became gridlocked up and down the country, flights were cancelled in their hundreds and schools were closed in their thousands. As I watched this event unfold in front of me only one thought came into mind. Pike Fishing.
Preparation is key and personal safety should always come first.
Anglers should consider the following:
- A thermal suit of some kind ( I'm a great fan of the camo Navy Seals flotation suits.)
- A scarf
- A wooly hat
- Warm socks (neoprene)
- A pair of fleece lined boots
- A pair of mittens.
- A thermos of your favorite hot beverage
- A Mobile Phone
- Breakdown cover (you never know)
- Some food to keep your energy levels up.
- A First Aid Kit (I'll tel you why later).
I already had a spot in mind and with only a few hours to spare it was a swim relatively close to the car. With Pike fishing I would normally choose the roving method to cover as many swims as possible but with little time to spare it was about choosing a spot that I knew usually contained fish; the question on my lips was... - "Will they feed?"
I put my thermal suit on, grabbed my bag full of gear and headed to my chosen swim. As I arrived on the bank ( I actually slid into my swim and then land on my backside.) I eyed up several pike looking haunts and began setting up my rods. I generally use fairly stout tackle, a pair of 3lb TC Fox Warriors and a couple of Shimano Baitrunners loaded with 15lb Berkley's line. I personally believe bait can be an individual choice, I'm personally a great fan of Mackerel for it's hardiness and Sprat for it's knack of catching me big pike. I went for the toughest bait today - The Mackerel.
I cut the Mackerel in half attaching the tail end to one set of trebles and the head to the other and proceeded in casting one bait under a tree on the far bank and one hard to the left and tight to the bank. In these conditions a fishes metabolism slows down and as a result as does their feeding voracity. I always find that if you don't get a bite within half an hour the fish generally aren't in that spot. I can imagine a Pike's pectorals moving slowly as it hovers Kestrel like in one spot within the water waiting for fish to come to them. For this reason I target my chosen quarry with this mentality; casting in many different spots.
Half an hour went by without so much as a tap on my rods. As I looked over my left shoulder I spotted another angler by the name of Mark. We talked all things Pike including a monster 38lber his friend had caught from Chew on his first Piking trip! It was then that Mark mentioned about a lovely Chub of 5lb he had just caught further upstream on maggots. It was fin prefect and hopefully a sign the fish were feeding.
I jokingly said to him that he would have to come over and photograph my monster pike when I caught it to which he laughed. I recast my left hand rod into a bit of flow on the far bank and moments later the rod sprang into action, I instantly opened the bail arm and let the line pour off to prevent the fish dropping the bait. I let it run for a few seconds and struck into what felt like a decent fish, it juddered through the water and then... It came off. Although frustrating this proved my previous theory correct as I had only been fishing perhaps 10feet away from the new spot without a bite in half an hour - moving led to bite on the drop!
I re-baited my trebles with fresh Mackerel on both rods and once again waited for a run. In the mean time I was joined by every anglers friend, little Robin Red Breast. Unfortunatley today I had only bought with me some fishy baits rather than ones of a wriggly kind; maggots. Maybe next time my little furry friend.
As I was watching the Robin hop from rod to rod she acted as a bite alarm flying off as my rod began to bounce slowly round to the left and back again. Once again I opened the bail-arm of the reel and allowed the line to trickle off for perhaps 5 or 6 seconds this time. I then locked the reel in to position and pulled against the fish and felt a solid arm-wrenching resistance. Could this have been the fish I lost earlier? Perhaps? It felt like good fish.
She began taking vast amounts of line from my reel. I tightened down the clutch to prevent her from heading for the snag on the far bank. There was an almighty explosion in the water as the Pike rose from the depths attempting to throw the hooks with little success. The fight began to ease off and once again she rose to the surface, this time minus the tidal wave. A stunning looking Pike nestled beautifully in my awaiting landing net.
I lifted her out of the water and rested her on my unhooking mat and proceeded in removing the trebles from her mouth. She felt like a good double, but I didn't want to guess. Mark came across after hearing all the commotion - "Is it a good one?" He asked. As she lay resting in the water amongst the landing net we got the weighing gear out and lifted her from the depths. The scales went round and stopped at 17lb 12oz. So minus the 1lb landing net.. you guessed it it. She weighed 16lb 12oz. Not a giant amongst the Pike world but a beautiful fish to catch in such tough conditions.
I cradled this stunning fish for a few photos and released her back to her watery world. It wasn't till I looked at my hand that I realized one of my fingers were pouring with blood. It was that cold that I simply couldn't feel it! This is the reason I have included a First Aid Kit in my list of things to have with you whilst fishing (I will always carry one with me now). It is important to remember that Pike have razor sharp teeth so must be dealt with care when unhooking them. A big thanks goes to Mark who had the sense to carry a First Aid Kit with him; cheers mate!
It must also be considered that although rather ferocious in appearance Pike are delicate; treat them with respect and they will live to fight another day. Carry a pair of long forceps, short forceps and wire cutters at all times. I would recommend Fox as they offer a great range of Predator tools. If you do catch a Pike which is deep-hooked you can then cut the trace to allow for easier access if necessary.
So, to all you anglers who look out of the window and think "bugger that", maybe you should also have second thoughts. Head to your local stretch of river or a lake and give it a go.
Until the next time. Fish Botherer.