Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Distance Casting With Deadbaits

To write about casting deadbaits long distances for pike is a bit of a minefield, as anyone who has for any length of time browsed some of the pike fishing forums will tell you. The subject tends to crop up quite frequently and straightaway the ‘I can’t do it , so no one else can’ brigade comes out in force with “the blokes a dreamer”, “impossible”, “the aerodynamics are all wrong” and other dismissive comments from armchair sceptics who have never seriously attempted the task.

I suppose the first real mention in print of casting a sizeable deadbait a long way was in the Rickards and Webb “Fishing for Big Pike” book when the late Barrie Rickards wrote of casting a frozen mackerel tail complete with a small pilot float 100 yards. Later in his last book “Fishing for Big Pike Revisited” this grew to 100 metres! I don’t ever remember anyone questioning Barrie on his claim(s), baring in mind he achieved this using a 10 foot  glass s/u carp rod and a Mitchell 300 reel loaded with 12lb line.

Not long after this Jim Gibbinson wrote quite a bit both in his book “Pike” (the Osprey series) and in several magazines about how he and his friend Dave Blaxford used powerful fast taper carp rods fitted with larger than normal reels (Abu Cardinal 77) to cast heavy leads with small deadbaits (sprats and roach) sixty to seventy yards out into Abberton Reservoir.

Eddie Turner also went into some detail on distance casting in his excellent book “Mega Pike”, this was again based around big leads and small baits. More recently the late James Holgate also wrote a lot about pike fishing at range ( casting), most of which was published in his series of “Castaway” books

This aside, very little has been written about the practice and application of casting reasonable sized deadbaits relatively long distances and I would have to admit I have never seen anyone actually cast what I would call a long way on any pike water I have fished over the past fifty odd years. When most pike anglers write or talk about placing their deadbaits at distance they are normally referring to the use of a bait boat to drop off their baits

Now I can only refer to the waters I fish in the South East and if I took in say a twenty mile radius of where I live (that would encompass both the Darent and Medway Valleys), I only know of two waters where bait boats are allowed. So, unless you fish either of these venues, the only way of putting a deadbait out a long way is to cast it. Of course I like many other pike anglers have not restricted my pike fishing to just local waters and some of the waters I have travelled to have allowed the use of bait boats.

Over the past twenty years or so I have spent a lot of time and effort (and money) looking at ways I can cast good sized deadbaits a long way, relative to the distances other pike anglers can cast. I have over many years had an interest in long range carp fishing and have written on a frequent basis in both carp books and magazines about how I go about it. Back in the early nineties I joined the Kent Sportcast Casting Club and although I realised very quickly I was just not big enough, tall enough or strong enough to make a top tournament caster I still managed to hit distances of over 240 yards and have the Sea Angler certificates to prove it. Therefore what follows is how I go about putting deadbaits a long way, I don’t claim it’s the only way and I’m sure there are others out there who can put their deadbaits just as far or further.

Back in the nineties the late Steve Edwards and I decided to return to pike fishing in the colder months after spending the previous five or six winters river fishing, mainly for big chub with the odd sortie after barbel or roach if the conditions were right. We had prior to this spell spent many winters pike fishing (as well as river fishing) and enjoyed catching our share of good fish. We decided to try again some of the many pits in the Darent and Medway Valleys and initially did pretty well, most of the pits were regarded as carp and tench waters and we rarely saw another pike angler. However even with what we saw as a lack of pressure it soon became apparent we were getting repeat captures.

We knew the waters quite well as we had fished them for both tench and carp for many summers, we had also done a fair amount of pike fishing on them prior to our river efforts. This meant we were familiar with most of the features these pits held, many of which were somewhat beyond our casting range and we quickly became aware our tackle was not capable of casting our baits anywhere near to these features - the gullies, bars and plateaux that we felt sure held different and maybe bigger fish, we needed to find a way of getting our baits much further out in to the pits.

We initially tried drifting when the wind was in the right direction and quickly picked up a few new fish but on a couple pits certain banks were out of bounds which often meant drifting wasn’t possible, therefore I, perhaps more than Steve decided to explore a few areas of tackle which might mean I could fish some of these far off features.


At the time I was using Daiwa Dictator Esox 3lb rods (which were paired with Shimano Spheros 5000 reels) a nice rod for close to medium fishing but it was obvious they just did not have the backbone to power six or seven ounces of lead and bait to any far off features, plus the ringing pattern didn’t help - too many and too small.

I needed something more powerful and by chance a visit to the tackle fair that used to be held at The Detling Fairground each October resulted in me buying a couple of Masterline Nigel Williams Big Pike Rods. These seemed like a very powerful blank but again the ringing pattern was awful, however I could change the rings if the rod was up to the job. The rods did feel very pokey and strong and the first few casts seemed to go okay, so at first I had high hopes for them but on my second trip out I blew one of them up !

After this I borrowed a couple of DL Bait Blasters from a friend and was quite impressed, some better distances followed, I tried to buy them but my mate would not sell (couldn’t blame him), so eventually they went back. I then purchased two Free Spirit Big Pike Rods from another friend, these were the original Big Pikes with the box weave, again like the BB’s quite impressive but I was still not totally convinced.

Not long after this another friend asked if I would sell him the Big Pikes as he had just gained access to a special water that held some very big pike, at just about the same time I was offered four un- used still in their bags Tony Fordham Predators, two of which  had a 3.5 test curve, both deals were done.

I used the Predators for several winters and was pretty pleased with them, they would certainly put my baits out a fair way but as my confidence in hitting them hard grew and as I started to look at other areas to help with distance, so the doubts started to creep in. I had started to join the lead and bait together and use a somewhat more aggressive casting technique. Three ounces of lead and three to four ounces of mackerel coupled with a very aggressive overhead cast was asking too much of the rod, well and truly overloaded the rod could just not perform and although my baits were going a fair way it wasn’t for me far enough. Add to that I was getting concerned about the blanks ability to withstand this regular abuse, I didn’t want to blow them up so toned things down a bit and started to look for something else.

By now I had concluded that just about all the available pike rods with text curves of three to three and a half pounds were just not up to the job, a really hard Fordwich type cast and the combined weight of lead and mackerel needed something stronger, more powerful.

I looked at some of the spod rods available at the time and felt it was possible they could be up to the job. Certainly, they could cast the weight and some carp anglers were claiming huge distances with big spods, albeit they were using light mono lines or fairly low breaking strain braid to heavy leaders. I looked at a few but they just didn’t feel right, they didn’t feel like a proper pike rod, add to that they looked a bit crude! This was some years ago and spod rods have improved massively, some of the high end ones you can buy today would I am sure make pretty good long range pike rods.

As luck would have it I was looking on an auction site when I spotted a rod that I was not aware of, a Greys of Alnwick Pike Extreme, 13 feet long with a stated 5lb test curve, could this be what I was looking for. I put in a silly high bid and won it for less than £50. As soon as it arrived I was impressed, it didn’t have any signs of use, I did speak to the seller who told me that he bought it at a Greys Trade Show in 1996 and wanted it to fish in the big Scottish Lochs as that’s where he had planned to move. The move never came off so the rod sat in his garage for the next ten years. I did speak to Greys about the rod, at first, they were pretty unhelpful but eventually put me on to someone who had been with company for years. He told me there were only two made the other being in Greys own museum, I did of course try to buy it but they wouldn’t sell, he also told me they were part of a range of pike rods designed in conjunction with James Holgate, again due to some policy changes very few of the range ever saw the racks of a tackle shop. Going back to 1996, this was a time when Greys produced their own carbon blanks, they later of course outsourced the making of their blanks/rods to the Far East.
One thing I was not too happy with was the ringing of the rod and therefore changed it, starting with a 50mm butt ring (that will get them going) and finishing with a slightly bigger tip ring, I did use the same whipping thread and tipping plus I used the same Aluminium Oxide type rings. This rod certainly met my expectations and then some, being well able launch seven ounces of bait and lead to the horizon, also because it has a proper pike action it is quite nice when comes to playing even quite small pike. It’s my go to distance pike rod.

Line and Leaders

Sheer distance of course is not all about the rod, although there’s no point going any further if the rod is not up to it. Line, end tackle, bait and technique all have a part to play. Line, mainline that is, is very important and plays a major part in casting at range, firstly and most importantly it needs to be light, physically light, heavy i.e. lines that sink quickly are a no, your line needs to be the lightest you can find. It also needs to be soft (the good thing is soft lines are usually light), it needs to be soft to reduce the choking at the butt ring, even with a 50 mm butt ring the choking factor is massive, it’s easier to choke something that is soft rather than something that is hard and stiff. The diameter of the line should be as thin as needs but the weight and softness of the line is more important. Lastly it must be strong, knot strength being vital, abrasion resistance on soft light lines tends to be not quite as good as on stiff heavy lines, although modern lines have all improved when it comes to resistance to fraying, plus I always use a leader which being at the end of the tackle is the section most likely to come into contact with snags, rocks, bars and mussels.

From what I have just written you will have gathered I use monofilament. Why not use braid? I do use braid for most of my pike fishing but not for blasting out heavy deadbaits and leads, however careful you are, braid will always throw the odd wind knot if you are hitting the rod very hard, this will almost always result in a crack off. Mono on the other hand, if you are careful, rarely throws a wind knot and even if it does if you are using strong line it rarely snaps but simply runs round the tangled ring.

Some years ago when I was looking for a line with the afore mentioned four attributes for extreme range fishing for carp without a leader (the rules), I tried and tested many lines, some which weren’t available in this country. Two of the lines I looked at and tested were made by a company called Xzoga, one was called Busterlon the other Rubylon. Both were very light (physically) very soft and had a very low diameter, 25lb breaking strain was just .33 in diameter. Both had good knot strength as well, both sat beautifully on the spool, were very smooth and cast like a dream, the only drawback was that they were pre-stretched which can cause a problem if they snap i.e. the section of line that is under stress prior to the break must be stripped off, as the strength of that section will be drastically reduced. However, being pre-stretched is a big plus when it comes to bite indication. I did not use either for my distance carp fishing but have used the Busterlon in 25lb for my distance pike fishing for quite a few years now with no problems. I do however use a leader, the one I favour is the Fox Snag Leader in 35 lb, very strong and somewhat underrated, it’s worth giving it a good stretch to remove any “memory” before casting in anger.

To join my main line to the leader I use a back to back Uni Knot, three turns with the leader

and four turns with the mainline. I also lubricate the knot with Krystons Granite Juice before tightening the knot right down. The leader should have at least four turns around the spool when the lead/bait is hanging level with the spigot/overfit. The leader knot should always be placed at the back of the spool before casting. When really loading up the rod for a big cast always check the spool is locked up tight and wear a finger stool. It’s always worth wetting the line before a big cast and/or applying some of Gardner’s Fluoro Plus line treatment. Lastly regardless of what you might read or hear  NEVER use a heavy braid leader to a mono mainline.


I don’t think reels play a major part in the casting equation, as long as they are of the “big pit” type with a good line lay, almost any of the mid-priced ones from Daiwa, Shimano or Okuma will do the job. Whatever, the reel does need to be fairly robust as long-range piking usually means they are going to have a hard life. I use an old Shimano Ultegra which seems more or less bullet proof, it does have a nice line lay and a fairly quick retrieve. I have got a spare spool loaded with the same 25lb line 35lb leader just in case, one or two of the pits I fish have pretty hostile bottoms and lines can sometimes incur damage. Another reel I have used which like the Ultegra is also bullet proof is the Daiwa Tournament 6000T, only slight downside is its slow retrieve. Last thing I would say is that every front drag reel I have used from the three mentioned companies has had a smooth and reliable clutch.

The Business End

Now let’s look at the last yard or so. To the end of my leader I attach/tie a small but strong swivel. To the swivel I attach an up-trace, in my case a long (30inch) length of 45lb Bleeding Leader, this is crimped to the swivel and covered with a tight-fitting rubber/ neoprene sleeve. On the up-trace runs one of those large lined run rings as sold by the catfish tackle companies. This is large enough to easily pass over the sleeved swivel. The other end of the up-trace is crimped to a snap link swivel, the crimp has a 10mm rubber bead forced over it, the bead retains the run ring on the up-trace. To the run ring I tie a length of heavy (40 to 50 lb) mono, this length of mono must be shorter by a couple of inches than your hook trace. Another snap link is tied to the other end of the heavy mono, I tend to cover both the mono ends, run ring and snap link knots with rubber/neoprene sleeves as they help with reducing tangles. My hook trace is around twenty inches long and is made from 40lb AFW wire, it usually has two size four Owner trebles attached. I would again emphasis the heavy mono link MUST be two to three inches shorter than the hook trace. I will attach several photos which hopefully will makes the end tackle clear.


For bait I usually use mackerel because it is very dense, easy to cut and also fairly easy to mould. I buy mine from Neville (sorry) or On Line Baits, both sell medium size ones of six to eight inches in length. When I get them, I normally select a dozen or so of the seemingly straightest ones and allow them to slightly thaw, I then cut them an inch or so behind the head at an angle of forty-five degrees, I also cut of their tail fin. I then massage and mould them so they are perfectly straight, very important as it will limit the amount they will twist or tumble in flight, then I lay them on a board and re-freeze them, they are then put in their own bag so they don’t get mixed up with other baits.

End Rig

To the end of my heavy mono link I attach a 3.5oz tri-lobe lead (these are sometimes called riser leads), I lay the straightened mackerel tail on the flat side of the tri-lobe lead and then bind the two together using PVA funnel web/mesh. If you find this a bit slippery you can give the lead and bait a squirt of plumbers freeze spray which will keep them together whilst you bind them. Also, if you want to slow down the PVA’s dissolve rate just dip the PVA mesh in a bottle of fish oil, don’t leave it in just dip it in and out.

I finish off the binding at the tail with one of those PVA cable ties. Hooks are then inserted into the bait in the normal way, the leader and the heavy mono link should then be supporting the weight of the bait and lead, the wire hook trace should have a bow in it, in no way should it bare any of the baits/leads weight.

Casting Technique

For casting long distances, the correct technique is critical for most of us, yes there will be the odd guy who despite having in theory an awful ungainly casting style who will somehow send his end tackle miles out in to the lake, there is always the exception to the rule. For most of us a structured, developed technique built on solid foundations will always work best. Over the past twenty-five to thirty years overhead casting techniques have moved forward enormously and I believe for casting fair sized deadbaits and heavy leads overhead casting is both the safest (for the pike) and most accurate (for us) way of getting our baits out a long way. I am a pretty competent pendulum and off the ground caster but would never use either technique to cast a deadbait/heavy lead combo.

The first major step in the advancement of the overhead thump cast took place on the banks of Fordwich carp lake near Canterbury, the anglers fishing there could only fish one bank and the carp soon learnt to clear off to the far bank. The carp anglers fishing there looked at ways they could improve their casting and soon came up with a better overhead thump. They extended their arms high above their head to increase the arc the lead had to travel through and at the same time took a big step forward at the start of the cast so adding body weight to their casts. This worked very well and even then way back in the eighties some of the really good casters were hitting 160 yards, this technique was later taken by the Fordwich guys to Harefield Lake a well known pit in the Colne Valley which attracted carp anglers from all over the country thus of course many of them picked on this extended arc cast and took it back to their local waters.

In recent years there has been a massive growth in carp matches in both Romania and Bulgaria which has led to the carp anglers in both countries developing casting techniques to get their baits further and further out into what are sometimes huge lakes. This in turn has led to lots of carp casting tournaments in both countries (just look there’s loads on YouTube) again overhead casting techniques have been improved and perfected in these competitions, using what is regarded as “standard” carp rods some of these competitions are won with casts in excess of 210 metres. I think the record distance for an overhead cast now stands at over 250 yards.

The Bulgarian/Romanian version of the Fordwich cast is what I use to send my deadbait way out into unfished water. What the Bulgarians and Romanians have done is simply added body rotation to the Fordwich cast, which makes quite a bit of difference without losing accuracy.

I start by standing sideways on to the direction I want to cast, my feet fairly close together, my arms will be extended above my head, I am right handed so take that into account. My right arm will be slightly bent, my back slightly arched so my arms/ hands are a little further behind my head so I can see where I want to cast. The drop from rod tip to bait/lead is half the length of the rod so down to the overfit/spigot, I will lean back until my lead/bait are almost touching the ground making sure my arms remain extended. I will look up at an angle of forty-five degrees and find a target in the sky, that is where I will aim and it is also my release of line point. I will simply make a big step forward with my left foot in the direction I want to cast, therefore using both body weight transfer and body rotation, once my left foot is planted my arms will be pulling (left hand) and pushing (right hand). It is vital that at the release point you try and keep the rod tip in line with the line leaving the rod to minimise friction. I’m sure it all seems a bit complicated, over the top and maybe a little uncomfortable but it’s not really. I will add several photos of the cast to hopefully make it easier to understand.
Finally, just to show how effective this cast can be, I have access to some reclaimed land which I have all marked out for casting practice. Last summer I took a carp rod, a reel loaded with .30 line (about 12lb) a 30 lb leader and a 3.5 oz lead, I would also point out I am 72 years old, about 12.5 stone in weight and 5ft 7 inches tall, the best cast I made that day using the technique described was 214 yards.

What I have written about is how I have gone about trying to put a reasonable lump of mackerel out in to the pit to a place the pike have never seen a bait before. It is however quite possible to tone things down a bit but use the same procedure and process to put say a smelt a really long way out in your lake or pit. All I do is use a lighter rod, in my case a Century C2D, a casting reel loaded with a Fox Exocet Tapered Leader 35/15 and a lighter tri-lobe lead of around 2.75oz. The smelt and lead together weigh around 4oz so well suited to most of the current 3 to 5oz carp casting rods. The Century C2D I use has a slightly more forgiving butt section which helps a little with the somewhat bulky lead/bait casting weight. This set up can be cast huge distances if done with the correct technique and areas of the lake that have never seen a pike bait can be really explored.

Hopefully what I have written will be of some help to those interested or struggling with the subject. I do know from the number of PM’s, e-mails, ‘phone calls and conversations I get/have from anglers that a lot of pikers want to know how to get their deadbaits further out in the waters they fish.

Cheers John Carver (Chub Creek)

Friday, 13 May 2016

Gold Rush!

By Paul Millar (aka, Paul_the_piker)

Summer arrived early in good old Blighty this weekend! The mercury was touching 25 yesterday and it was far too warm to remain indoors, so what better way to spend a glorious late spring evening than pursuing the enigmatic and bewitching cruey! I have very fond memories of these fish as a youngster but I haven’t caught or specifically tried to catch them, well, ever really, but knew of a small pond about 45mins from home that was rumoured to hold some absolute crackers for the North West, fish of over 2lb, which even by national standards are a rare beast these days, so at 16:00 I was traveling down the motorway with Uncle Mike in tow!

Content with just spending some time by the water doing what I love, I had no expectations, but I applied myself as I always do. I had chosen a swim in the North West corner of the little pool as the warm wind was pushing hard into there and my instinct told me it should hold some fish. 7.5’ deep at 6m out into the open water but with a very inviting 3.5’ at 12.5m next to a reed bed on the out of bounds west bank to my right. The wind was far too strong to fish the reeds swim so that would have to wait with the hope that the wind subsided later on. It was challenging at first with the strong south easterly making pole fishing awquard even on the 6m line and bites were not forthcoming, my mind wandered to what might be grazing over the crushed hemp and micro pellet loose feed I had cupped in next to the reed bed but the wind was still too strong to present a delicate pole rig with the finesse required for the crucians over there. It would have to wait…

Another half an hour passed to around 19:00 and with only a couple of plump “just minted” roach to my name the wind seemed to subside ever so slightly. The opportunity had presented itself to have a look over on the reed line and with that I quickly switched rigs, baited the size 14 and shipped over. The wind was still strong enough to make presentation difficult and the rig was being flicked and pulled about but I managed to keep it steady just long enough for something to suck in the hook bait and cause the insignificant little orange pimple on the surface to disappear! With all the composure of a kid at Christmas, the pole was swung to the left, away from the reeds in anticipation of an angry cruey darting towards the reed bed in a bid to escape. Instead of the expected solid resistance a rather small but beautiful rudd came flying from the water like a Patagonian dorado! But, it was a fish, and gave me the confidence to continue to battle the wind on that line.

Next put in, the float settled and after about 5mins dipped under again and this time I was met with spirited resistance. Initial instinct said tench as the number 14 elastic stretched towards the reeds but steady pressure soon had the culprit under control and boring straight down under the tip of the pole, with that tell-tale “jag jag” fight. At this point my mind began to consider the possibility that this could be the target species, but with relatively coloured water it wasn’t until it popped up and was scooped in one liquid motion into the waiting landing net that it was confirmed. And, what a stunner!! It’s brassy flanks glistening in the evening sun, ejecting water and flicking it’s pectoral fins in defiance. A clear PB (previous 1lb 10oz) by a considerable margin! Protocol followed and a number was assigned (2lbs 7oz) after which my trusty photographer, Uncle Mike, fired off a few quick snaps and she was returned to the water to make another young boys (at heart!) dreams come true!

But we weren’t finished there! The line was topped up with a little more loose feed and left to settle following the disturbance that had been caused a short time ago. A return to the open water line demonstrated that nothing had moved in on that feed so there was no other choice than to return to the reeds in the hope that another golden dinner plate had moved in.

Within 5mins the previous scene was re-enacted and another breath-taking specimen was lying in the folds of the landing net at my feet. Not quite as big as the previous but every bit as proud and handsome. At 2lbs exactly, it made it a brace of “twos” and me one very happy angler!

Hold the press! Good luck comes in threes doesn’t it? Back over to the reed line and around 15mins passed without an indication, thoughts of the commotion and the fading light causing any remaining fish to vacate the swim to deeper water had started to enter my head, until, the bronze semi-circular back of a cruey broke the surface not 6” from my float. A trail of pin headed bubbles tracked the course of the fish as it ambled through the swim picking up loose offerings at leisure as it did. I was tense as I awaited the inevitable dip on the float, but it never came? A quick lift of the rig proved my suspicions, no hook bait! Oh bother! Or words to that effect! The rig was re-baited and re-positioned with the speed of a cruey bite and as if by magic the float dipped under once more. Immediately it was clear that it was another cruey of a similar standard as those previous and the scales confirmed this with a weight of 2lbs 4oz! Scale and fin perfect, an Egyptian gold leaf sculpture brought to life, lay there before me and all expectations surpassed!

The evening was not done, but the next bite was met with a much more powerful and far less sedate fight that had the pink elastic stretched across the swim like a taught washing line! It could only be a doctor fish but it wasn’t long until those seductive teddy bear eyes were looking up at me having been subdued.

As the light began to fade, the sun was setting on a session to remember and I drove home with an immovable smile and a spring in my step for the working week to come; the reason why my passion for angling is so entrenched firmly reinforced!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Q&A with Dave Horton, by Alan

CCD (CookiesDaughtersDad) AKA Alan
DH (Dave Horton)

CCD, Hi ya Dave, I was thinking of doing a question and answer thing for the pike pool with some of the " notable pike anglers" , and I would like to start with you, some of the questions may involve you supplying the odd photo or two. How do you feel about that?

DH, Fire away old man! ;)

CCD, Kicking things off, How you been since we last nearly met at Rob's talk, was it a dodgy back that's been the pain?

DH, Alan, I am nothing short of astonished at my improvement - the Physio was FANTASTIC and today I had a full gym session at the Fire Stn too in preparation for my functional assessment at HQ next week. A month back I had genuine doubts about ever doing my operational job again but I'm very confident of that now!

CCD,Hope that goes well for you.
I have suffered a bit myself over the years with sciatica, whats been your problem? was it a work related thing or was it simply lifting a big fish without bending your knees?

DH, I had a fall whilst Swift Water Rescue training back in Oct. It resulted in mass soft tissue damage in my lower back /glutes, left me with 2 bulging discs and highlighted a degenerative issue consistent with my manual line of work and being 51. It sounds worse that it is and I've been taught management techniques in order that I may carry on pretty much as before. In short I'm delighted!!!

CCD, That's a real shame for the story as I was hoping it was lifting a big fish! But I'm glad you seam on the mend.
But enough of this career hero fireman s***e, suitably admired I must say, so one last question off fishing if I may, what about the Horton's family, mum, dad, love life kids etc?

DH, My father was an Irishman who left Tipperary town in his teens for the bright lights of England. He and my mother made a family of six as I have an Older brother and sister and I'm half a brace of twins! We were the Casey's (a common name around Tip Town) but became the Horton's when my mother re-married after Dad done a bunk when I was 4 and I gained a half sister too!

My Twin brother became my twin sister (gender re-assignment) many years back so life is, was and always will be varied in my world.
I met the mother of my Children when we were both in out teens and we shared the next 17 years together before she eventually had enough of me. In fairness we had little other the kids in common but you don't realise these things when you're as young as we were perhaps? Between us we created my greatest accomplishment yet in the shape of my three fantastic kids (Amba 30 - Connor 27 and Jake 21) and this coming May Amba is to make me a grandfather for the first time so as far as I'm concerned 2016 is already a GREAT year!
I remarried some years back and have the perfect Wife now in as much as I haven't clapped eyes on her in over six years! That reminds me I must divorce her?
These days I share my life with a Girl (Donna) I was in class with every day throughout senior school but never found the courage to talk to much. She was a pretty lil thing (still is), went out with all the cool dudes (I never have been) and seemingly never noticed me? We re-met 4 years ago and get on like a house on fire!!!!
My world is completed by the fact that the young Lady I dated before Donna decided she'd sooner leave with both of our cars rather than the dog she'd arrived with and in no time at all Lucydog and I became inseparable!

She's a huge commitment and has cost me numerous fish (Dogs are not always permitted) but we love each other implicitly and I wouldn't be without her!

CCD, That is what I call a great answer Dave, thanks, somehow I just knew you were a paddy  I shall be asking a few fishy questions now
CCD, So Dave, what would be your 1st angling memory, who did you go with, where and importantly, did you catch?

 Dave and his Grandad on his 95th Christmas Day

DH, My first Angling memory was of a family day out back in the very early 70's- I suspect we were somewhere around Slough for that's where the majority of my extended family lived at the time - my Grandparents and a couple of Uncles and Aunts were present, my mother wasn't as she was quite poorly by now. Particularly as my Father had long since had it on his toes, it was the men folk that sort of mentored us boys. Again it's not until much later in life that you realise what was going on at the time but I remember it all fondly and with great respect now too. Fishing tackle appeared and so did a little gravel pit and a few hours were spent being educated in the fine art. Grandad was very comfortable with fishing and apparently I was the quietest and most softly trodden of "the twins" so I got to fish with him and see how it was done? 

Grandad helped everyone set up and got them fishing first and then he and I wandered as far away from the others as we could (all of 50 yds on the half acre pit) and planted the gear down beside some trees. For the next 30 minutes I learned more than was ever going to again in any other 30 minutes of my next 30 years of fishing! Whilst my uncles, cousin and brothers were busy catching little Perch and Roach Grandad and I simply crept along the tree line and looked into the water. I didn't always see what made Grandad mumble and muse but occasionally I did and they were HUGE!

Little crusts of bread were scattered amongst the branches of the trees and slowly they'd disappear into magic swirls of water that slurped and sometimes even re-appear too! I remember graphically having it explained to me how if we were stealth like and patient enough that maybe just maybe we could lead one or better still two of the fish (for when there's more than one they compete and make mistakes) "Hansel and gretel" like out from the branches to where we might just might be able to try fish for them "We're just trying to trick them David!" Pleasant banter and mild derision emanated from the area of the Pit that the rest of the family were fishing, at our lack of fish but Grandad smiled wryly and tried to keep me calm. 

Periodically I'd run back and forth to the others telling them of the monsters that lurked beneath the trees but they were more than content catching the little Roach etc and so if I'm honest would I have been! Eventually we began fishing ourselves and shock, gasp, horror all we were catching too were little Perch that seemingly swallowed the hooks and bled and even littler Roach. Every couple of minutes though Grandad would wander off down to the other end of the trees and feed a little more bread in. All too quickly an Auntie appeared and told us that time was almost up and that Nan (the matriarch) was thinking about heading home soon. His hand forced Grandad stood up and declared that it was now or never and promptly bit the line above his float before tying on a really BIG hook! I had to hang back incase I spooked them but off he went to the other end of the trees and within seconds he was waving frantically and calling me over! The whole family seemed to appear just in time to hear Grandads line snap and see the water calm and I got to watch the ever calm head of the family throw the rod down in disgust and start cussing! I was to run the whole event through my head a million times over the next few years and without doubt the Angler in my was born that very day!

CDD, So the young Horton is off and running down the angling path, over the next few years, which way did this path twist and turn regarding species and the places you fished etc and what was your 1st experience with pike?

DH, Throughout my junior School years I flirted with fishing and most of it was carried out in the company of my bestie, a boy by the name of Nigel Palmer. Initially we caught mostly Perch and it was whilst doing that that I learned the value of a livebait! That's a little misleading actually for it was worms that were used to catch the Perch but we soon learned that the more vigorous they were then the thus the more productive. Nigel and I were sent to different senior schools and slowly lost contact but not before we spread our wings a little further and found ourselves at a Dobbs Weir on the River Lea in Herts. Here we were to witness lots of Pike being caught and after watching "The Big Boys" and picking their brains we went away and armed ourselves with heavier line, shop bought snap tackles and some sprats. My first Pike though fell to a Live Gudgeon cadged from a fellow angler on our maiden trip Piking to Dobbs Weir! I was ecstatic and eager to show the world just how clever I was, so we promptly dispatched it with a hefty glass lemonade bottle and I rode the 10 miles home with it strapped to the handle bars of my push bike! Somewhat reminiscent of our EE brothers eh?

Having drifted apart from Nigel completely and having hooked up with other kids I continued to flirt with Fishing and Piking in particular but mostly with spinners and caught quite a few too! BY the time I was in my late teens my best Pike was still very modest in size and though not weighed I'd hazard a guess at 8lbs? When I was about 18 I witnessed a fish of 18lbs (the captor called it 20 but it never was) get caught at Dobbs Weir again and it had such an impact on me that I set about trying to catch such a fish myself and bloody blimey if I didn't catch the exact same specimen on my first trip a week later!

I learned so much from that first very intentional capture and above all I found confidence in my ability to catch Pike - From that day onwards I've never looked back!

CCD, I love that image of you cycling along with a pike strapped to the handle bars  but how attitudes have changed eh!
So I get the impression that from that 18 lber you became inspired to catch more pike and bigger pike and other than catching bait, you all but exclusively fished for them. When your 1st 20 plusser came,am I right in thinking it actually weighed over 30?

DH, Yes and no Alan. The "Yes's". I became inspired to to catch more and BIGGER Pike and yes I almost exclusively fished for them and that remained the case until fairly recent times. My recent flirting with other species has been born out of the fact that I've struck up a friendship with Keith Kracknell (KC) and he's without doubt one of the country's great all rounders and very inspiring to be around! In order to spend a bit more time in his company I've had to forsake a few Piking sessions here and there but have had my eyes opened to the bounty of great alternative fishing I've been missing out on. We both love our Piking and there ain't no way we're sharing runs at that but with everything else we're both pretty laid back and happy to share just about everything. The fact is that when KC and I go fishing together, special things happen. By way of example, our first ever session saw me catch the lake record and my first ever Catfish (courtesy of KC) at 61lbs and our most recent trip out saw him land his PB Perch of 4lbs 11oz, that I was delighted to be able to put him on to! There have been many many other happenings too (Hmmm I think I've just given birth to a future article for the Pool with that as the title?)!
The No was the fact that my First 20 was in fact 20lbs 6oz

but my second one weighed 32lbs 4oz 

and simply illustrated to me that they are far from mythical creatures and certainly no more difficult to catch than say a 20 pounder (both of which require a different mind set to catching Jacks IMHO) but there are of course far far fewer of them about! The capture of that first 30 and it's profound effect on me saw me decide to specifically target fish of that stamp on a frequent basis. That said I learned somewhere along the way that it can be soul destroying and also result in very few fish caught (I had just a dozen or so runs one winter but 4 of them came from 30's) so these days I punctuate my BIG fish fishing with some easy fishing where I'll get runs and thus remain relatively sane?

CCD, Now we can move onto what makes a angler become a "notable one"  like yourself.
Not allowing for ETs two 40s, I believe I am right in saying that you have caught more 30lb pike than any other UK angler, 30 I believe, now forgetting about techniques and baits etc because many reading this will have a good understanding of all that, but as we know that putting enough time on the right waters is the key to angling success. So can you try to explain how you have consistently managed to choose the right waters and how you found the dedication, year in, year out to put the time in. Regarding the right water, what sort of water, ticks all the Hortons boxes?

DH, Firstly, there's no "Not allowing for ET's 40's" or indeed his number of upper 30's too for his stats are phenomenal (I do enjoy reminding him of one negative stat though and that's that he's a decade older than me)! The fact is, you can only catch what is available and for the most part fish of that stamp are generally few and far between.

It's possible there's someone out there caught more than ET and thus obviously myself but they're very good at keeping stum if that's the case?
Thirty pounders though are without doubt realistic targets and throughout the length and breadth of this country fish of that size get caught week in week out! I think I'm living proof that if you're driven enough that a working class lad with all the trappings of family life and a basic career etc can realistically hope to catch fish of that stamp should he wish to? The actual catching BIG Pike is I think relatively easy Alan - finding waters with them is not! Sure we have the obvious ones like Chew but unless you're one of the chosen few or loaded, getting access there is no mean feat? What we're left with then is either finding a water capable of producing one all of your own (I've only managed that once in 30 years) or more likely fishing somewhere that has a little history, recent or otherwise. Chasing specific fish is not everyones cup of tea (it's not my favoured option either) but I've done it and it is achievable. I've caught several fish that had popped up in the Angling press, that I'd been shown in pics or had perhaps even surprisingly turned up in fish surveys etc. I've specifically targeted them and almost without exception I've caught them too if I've made a concerted effort to do so!

I do chuckle sometimes when I hear terms like "circus" or when I see one angler deriding another for fishing a specific place or catching a particular fish and then offering themselves up as some paragon of virtue for fishing, for example, the great Lake's, a mighty lough or loch, the extensive Drains system, perhaps the Broads or even a large river etc for example? Rarely are they first to have done so, so are they not themselves simply following up some bit of information or snippet and jumping on someone elses all beit historic band wagon? The actual fact is that many many of us are actually fishing for the self same very few BIG fish if indeed that's what tickles our fancy?
Whilst I'll not try to refute your assertion "we know that putting enough time on the right waters is the key to angling success". I will offer the suggestion that choosing the right time to do so is far more effective! I've just done a very quick bit of mental arithmetic and can hand on heart tell you that five of the thirty pound fish I've caught have been landed within my first three attempts at catching them! Don't get me wrong I've had long campaigns too, particularly where for one reason or another I can't get at the fish as and when I would want to and my Irish thirty is a case in point in a much as it took in excess of 5 years for me to finally catch it when I specifically fished the water it lived in!

My dedication and inclination to go wavers dramatically and from time to time (for one reason or another) I've had none and thus taken full winters out to regroup as such. Where once I considered this a bad thing, these days I specifically choose to do it in order that I may fish more effectively when the inclination finally rears it's head again. To try keep it all fresh and interesting I set myself little targets - I'm particularly proud of having caught 20's from a dozen different rivers and 30's from the same number of different venues too. A few winters back I set out to catch 20's from all the home nations in one winter (and did it) and this winter I'm hoping still to catch a 20 plusser from my Kayak (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED NOW) !

"Regarding the right water, what sort of water, ticks all the Hortons boxes?"
I enjoy River Piking above all else Alan (and have a right River result this winter too) but I'm genuinely happy fishing anywhere and I do mean anywhere as long as I suspect it holds a thirty pounder. That's not to say I don't fish waters that don't hold them for often I specifically make a point of doing just that for above all else I just love catching Pike!
CCD, Ok I'll let Eddie keep his 40s
The future, I think if you haven't already, as I know you like to keep a little bit back, caught your 30th 30, I'm sure its all but a done deal, even 40 30s looks likely to one day be on the cards but I wonder how much importance you place on fishing for, and catching a 40?
With all the pressure modern angling is under,the ones that make for some of the most repeated threads on the pit, you know, EEs, cormorants and otters etc how optimistic are you for the future of British angling, and in particular specimen angling?

DH, Hahaha I do hold a little back Alan and for good reason. Invariably telling even your closest friends what you've caught and or where can see the fish come under greater pressure.  Some recent events have just reinforced my thoughts on this matter!

I have my own little rule of thumb regarding recaptures in as much as I'm perfectly happy to set out to catch a specific fish by design twice but there are others who will do so repeatedly (and of course there may be some who would not wish to catch a fish even twice) so by NOT sharing captures we are effectively protecting the fish and of course our own future fishing!

I don't think I'm being over ambitious in thinking it likely that I'll at least match ET for numbers of Pike over 30 Pounds one day (if not the 40's or BIG 30's)especially when you consider he has had a decade more at it than I have! If I'm honest though (and I heart on sleeve am at times) I'd really like to catch at least one more than Eddie. There's not much in this world that I'm any good at but Piking is something I can lay that claim to so I don't mind admitting that it would tickle me if one day it were accepted that I'd caught the most 30 pound Pike.

I do still dream of a 40 Pound Pike BUT I'm a realist and recognise that opportunities to catch one are few and far between and it would be difficult to specifically target one? Yes I know there's that gorgeous one in Yorkshire that Wyne Coole has caught twice but fishing for it under the circumstances I'd have had to was not something that appealed to me. I am not under any circumstances knocking anyone who has though either!

I'm fairly optimistic about Piking actually - Chew aside there are still good numbers of 30 pound fish to be found the length (Scotland seems to be up and coming) and breadth (the fens are holding their own) of this country and with so much focus on Chew itself some of them are getting a little overlooked in my opinion? It's a travesty what has happened on the Broads in recent times with Salt incursions and Prymnesium not to mention the Otters but even there there will be opportunities for the man prepared to put in the hours and leg work? That the EE's are an issue is too obvious to ignore and I in no way condone them taking fish for the pot.

Daves favorite, a river thirty
I will however, try to offer a silver lining to that particular cloud by suggesting that generally, in the main, their techniques are most effective with the smaller of our Pike and that the removal of them, whist potentially having dire long term effects, may be part of the reason that some of the waters that the EE's frequent are seemingly producing more BIG Pike at present than they have done for quite some time?
Going off at a tangent here but one positive by product of having caught quite as many BIG Pike as I have is rarely do I feel any pressure to do so again and as such I'm free to play long shot's and explore opportunities that I might not do if I were driven merely by the pursuit of the next one?
Piking and specimen hunting in general is a funny old game but above all else I've come to learn that there really are very few outstanding anglers. Instead what is very obvious to me and has been for decades but somehow eludes some others is that any fisherman is only as good as his fishing! So any Piker who is consistently catching more than average is likely very competent at Piking but has access to above average fishing - simple as!