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!

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Full Circle

Quite why I came top of the poll to write the 100th post for The Pike Pool is a bit of a mystery as I don't do anywhere near as much piking as most Pikers Pit members do these days. Which is as good a reason to make it a bit of a look back over the ups and downs of 30 odd years of piking. Hopefully without the rose tinted spectacles!

In some respects my attitude to piking is exactly the same now as it was when I started piking in earnest back in 1982. I just want to catch pike, first and foremost, and if I can manage to land a few doubles each season I'm a happy chappy. I've never had any ambitions to catch more or bigger pike than anyone else (which is just as well given the piking partners I've had over the years...). In the early days I obviously wanted to increase my personal best pike, but the thought of catching a thirty was nowhere in my head. Such fish were very thin on the ground and unheard of from local waters. Even a twenty was extremely unlikely from anywhere within ten miles of home.

That's not to say that pictures of thirty pound pike weren't motivating. Photos of Peter Hancock's record and Clive Loveland's 39 are still iconic in my eyes. Perhaps even more motivating, because a more recent capture (and in colour in the Abu Tight Lines catalogue) was the fish Slim Baxter caught from Lomond. There was another photo that graced the cover of Coarse Angler stuck in my mind, not least because I actually knew the angler in question - Rob Forshaw's Lomond 31.

Even so a thirty was beyond most local piker's dreams because catching one involved a lot of travelling to even be in with a chance of fishing a water containing them. Twenties weren't much more of a hope. All the local pikers I knew who had caught a twenty had them from either Scotland or the Fens. For a bloke with just a push bike and occasional lifts to go fishing the best I could hope for was to catch the biggest pike in the waters I had access to. The drains hadn't produced a 20 in recent years, and by all accounts doubles were hard to come by on the canal.

Despite the low ceiling weights for pike on these waters a pike is a pike and I managed to learn a fair bit that I have put to use on 'better' waters since. One thing that you do learn is to work for your fish. If you start piking (or fishing for any species for that matter) on a prolific water with a high average size of fish you can become complacent and imagine that all you have to do anywhere is rock up and chuck the baits out. It's one reason travelling anglers can outfish the locals when a water gets known about. They are used to trying a little bit harder.

It didn't take long before I started travelling for my piking when I teamed up with Pete Hesketh. He'd' fished a loch on the off chance when he was on holiday and caught doubles without really trying. As an example of the quality of our local fishing Pete fished an entire season (June to March) for something like ninety pike, ten of them being doubles. That included early sessions before work as well as weekends. It's grim up north.

When you start fishing further afield you begin to bump into pikers from other parts of the country. Sometimes you hit it off with them and they give you tip-offs about waters they fish or have fished. After having a few red letter days, by our standards, in Scotland catching more than one double in a day, and me catching my first twenty - which wasn't what we were targeting - we moved on to one of those waters we'd been told about for the winter. The fishing was slower, but we kept on catching doubles. This time Pete got a twenty. We were becoming accustomed to this sort of fishing as the new norm for us. Instead of hoping for a double every time we fished we were expecting them. Our hopes were now of twenties.

More waters came to our attention and we found ourselves on that grapevine we'd heard so much about. So began the years of travelling. Early starts, long drives, weekend sessions and longer bivvying up or sleeping in cars and vans. Doubles were reasonably relatively plentiful, but twenties were still the exception. I never was lucky. In the years Pete and I fished together we both caught the same number of pike over nineteen pounds. Pete caught twice as many twenties as me though. The netting skills I learned in those years came in handy when I started fishing with a certain Yorkshire Pudding.

When Esthwaite got widely known about it was pretty much out of my league as far as price went. I had to listen to my mates talking about all the twenties they were catching. That is the biggest downside to trout water piking. The expense limits who can have a crack at the fish. Just as anywhere, the more time you put in the more you will catch and, therefore, the better your chances of a monster. Esthwaite was the first water I knew of, that was reasonably local, to produce numbers of thirties.

Despite being able to afford only an occasional session I still fished Essy hoping for a twenty. My PB was slowly creeping upwards, literally by the ounce, after catching my Scottish 22 pounder. I managed enough high doubles to keep me satisfied. If you're catching fifteen-plussers on a regular basis where a twenty is a big fish you're doing all it takes to catch twenties. All I needed was a bit of luck. That bit of luck came along when Geoff Parkinson anchored up where I wanted to troll my livebaits forcing me out from the bank and the right hand float sank from sight.

Catching what was at the time one of the top fifty pike of all time (although that was the year the List Master General didn't publish the top 50 list...) was a strange thing to happen. I never thought I'd catch a 30. I never really hoped to catch one. But I had. For some reason after that fish twenties started to fall to my rods more frequently than nineteens. I wonder if the weight of the big one stretched the spring in my scales?

A scattering of memories
Once more chance encounters lead to a change of fishing partner and pastures new. Nige Grassby invited me to fish with him and a whole new experience was had. Numbers of doubles in a day, and all falling for lures. That sort of fishing can spoil you for the kind of piking to be had back home. As this lure fishing coincided with making more contacts and starting to travel to more southerly trout waters so the fishing, and expectations, changed. When the 'lure boom' hit the trout waters the fishing was remarkable.

Previous trout water sessions with deadbaits and 'old school' lures had been more like playing the lottery than fishing. You hoped something would be stupid enough to take your bait or lure, but didn't really believe anything would. The expectation was to blank, although Llandegfedd herrings made a difference for some. Unfortunately my herrings were the other sort. Now I felt like I was fishing for twenties. I caught a few too. I even managed one on a mackerel! This was when my netting skills proved invaluable and in one season I slipped the net under four thirties for Mr Grassby. It was almost like we were expecting to catch thirties.

Nothing lasts for ever in the piking world and it didn't take long before the edge some of us had with the lures and techniques we were using wore off. Victims of our own success, I suppose, as lure tactics got publicised and the lures became widely available. It was as much a case of getting on the spots before anyone else if you wanted to keep the catch rates up. Menteith was a bit different. You still needed to be on the spots, but the pike would take deadbaits. Unusual for trout water pike. After all those years of chucking lures all day sitting watching a couple of floats and expecting to catch made a pleasant change.

Nonetheless, around 2004 I was starting to get tired of all the travelling. Trout water fishing was getting more competitive as more and more people knew where 'the spots' were and had the means to make the most of them. Other waters I was fishing were going off the boil. Angling pressure had taken its toll on some, as had aquatic predators and possibly humans with a taste for fish. After all those years I couldn't face fishing locally on waters where you either had to face a lengthy run of blanks before a fish turned up (either a jack or a twenty on one water), or the prospect was a load of jacks with an occasional double. That was when I turned to barbel after the tench had spawned. It's odd, but when I fish for other species I always set out with a target in mind, but with pike I never did. Once my PBs had been upped to a level where they were going to be harder to beat I started to think of pike again.

In the Autumn of 2011 I headed back to the local drains. Something had changed. When I first fished them deadbaits were a waste of time. If you wanted consistent sport you needed livebaits. So that was how I started out - with two lives and a dead. Strangely the deadbait produced more pike and a better stamp too. The majority of modern pikers use deads as their first choice. and I have a feeling that the intervening years the pike had become more accustomed to finding discarded deadbaits

Back where I started
However, something else had changed. My approach. I always used to find that sitting it out in one spot and waiting for the pike to move past worked best. After becoming mobile in my barbel fishing I started moving about when piking. Now it was paying off. Sometimes I'd leapfrog, sometimes I'd pack up and move hundreds of yards. Often a move would result in a pike. I was also fishing short sessions rather than dawn to dusk jobs, and still catching enough to keep me interested.

My next move was to a return to a stillwater that never used to produce much over ten pounds. I knew the pike would take deads on there so that was easy. I was surprised to find that the pike had got bigger. The average jack was bigger, and there were twenties to be caught. Not by me, but a couple of mid doubles were nice enough.This was sit and wait all-day stuff though. Something I find increasingly tedious when not much action occurs.

This water involved a bit of a drive and by now I was really fed up of early starts - which this place needed to make sure of getting a decent swim, so it was a lucky meeting that saw me joining a water where the pike, much to my surprise, feed late in the day. In all my time I had never found many pike waters where the evening feeding spell could be relied on. One or two fish would get caught at last knockings but not enough of them to make afternoon sessions worthwhile. Only the canal and one drain ever did me any pikey favours after lunch in the winter.You can't beat fishing between lunch and tea during the winter without the need to make any pack-up and just a small flask of tea to keep the cold out. Keeping moving can see two or three fish banked in that time. It's great fun.

That's where my piking is again. I get the rods out when I feel like a piking fix, fishing locally, expecting to catch something every time I fish, hoping for a double or two and not worrying about twenties. If I get fed up I go home rather than stick at it until the death. I'm enjoying piking in a simple way just like when I started out. No targets beyond saving a blank, no pressure, no lists. Fishing is supposed to be fun, and I'm enjoying it.

I think my spring balance has rusted up though. It's sticking at nineteen pounds again. But these days I couldn't care less!

Dave Lumb

Monday, 30 March 2015

My Uncles Forty

Many stories litter the annuals of pike fishing history that assist in dispelling the myth that lightening does not strike twice in the same place! This is another such story, which exhibits such elements of luck and coincidence as to make it almost unbelievable for some!  

You may recall, back in February 2014, I was the fortunate captor of the current Chew Valley record pike. An incredible fish, weighing 44lb 6oz. The sort of fish that even seems frankly unrealistic when one allows their mind to explore their piking dreams; that 99.99% of pike anglers never have the privilege to see in their angling lifetime.

But, how about two of these beasts of myth and legend? According to Neville Fickling’s notable pike anglers list, only Eddie Turner and Nige Williams have actually caught two 40lb+ pike themselves, but how many angling duos have shared each other’s captures of 40lb+ pike?

My uncle, Mike Heyes and I have been fishing together since I was eight years old (I’m now twenty six). Mike had only previously dabbled with angling, tagging along on the odd trip with his elder brother, Phil Heyes, who was quite a successful match angler throughout the 80s, even by national standards, but Mike had never really taken to the sport. It is fair to say that even now, Mike doesn’t take his fishing too seriously. He isn’t motivated by catching big fish and is at his happiest fishing a simple waggler setup on a local commercial carp pool. Unfortunately for Mike, I do the driving and the car generally finds its way to waters where there is a chance of something special or where the surroundings and the environment make it a pleasure just to be there! Mike has always been happy to just go with the flow and in his advancing years (he will be sixty in February) he has realised there is more to fishing than simply catching fish and his desire to experience more waters throughout our small island has increased tenfold.

I started fishing at Chew Valley in 2013 with a friend of mine, Kristian Schofield. Kristian is a very motivated and dedicated piker and it was him who suggested we give Chew a try and endured the constant engaged tone for hours that first year. He managed to get some tickets and very kindly invited me along. I spent 8 days pike fishing on Chew Valley with Kristian that year and was rewarded with my first twenty and a few jacks. It’s fair to say, Chew hasn’t been kind to Kristian, but the less said about that the better, eh pal! This was enough for Mike to show an interest in fishing Chew and it was decided that we would both try for tickets in 2014 with Mike and I fishing together and Kristian fishing with another of his friends.

On the first of our days for the 2014 trials, I caught my 40lb+ pike and Mike was there to do the netting and assist with the weighing and photography. This was an incredible experience and it was clear from the conversations that followed, that it had inspired Mike and stirred the suppressed piker within! No longer the laid back take it or leave it attitude. The laissez fare “I’m just here for the experience” comments had disappeared and it was clearly evident that he wanted one for himself! I reassured Mike that what had happened that day, would never happen again. We had had our full quota of Chew Valley fortune and to even contemplate a re-occurrence was so wholly unrealistic as to be almost laughable to even suggest! Did he not know anything about piking history, had he not read the books, the list, listened to the stories and appreciated the rarity and significance of such fish! We needn’t bother upgrading our 40lb Avon Scales, so confident was I that a fish in excess of those proportions would never find its way into our landing net again.

Recounting this I am reminded of how dismissive I was of Mike’s new found enthusiasm and ambition, given my “greater experience” and knowledge. I usually don’t like being proven wrong, but I could not think of a better way to be put in my place!

Our next session on Chew was 22nd and 23d October 2014. It had been a long wait, given the level of excitement we were experiencing about returning to the scene of our greatest angling achievement. Not much had changed, our fishing plans were the same as before, but there was a distinct air of confidence and a very relaxed feeling in the car that night as we travelled down the M6. We hadn’t bothered to attempt to find out about any recent captures of big fish or any “going areas”, we didn’t care what others were doing. Doing our own thing and using our initiative had served us well previously and we were going to stick with it. There were no conversations required, except to express our anticipation for the days ahead and to prevent me from re-arranging the central reservation, so it was a quick and quiet journey. The weather was unseasonably warm and we wanted to head to an area that gave access to both shallow and deeper water so that we could cover our bases and one that was unlikely to result in a battle for a swim or competing for the fish in that area with others. I had a couple of areas in mind, so when we arrived in the car park for Wick Green Point at 04:30 to find (inevitably some might say) 3 vehicles already parked up, it was off to our other chosen spot at Nunnery Point.

We turned off the road at 04:45 and drove down to the first lay by to have a look around the area in Herons Green Bay. The water level was way down, which although not a complete surprise did change things slightly as this meant that the spit on the end of Nunnery point might be exposed providing a nice beach like swim with access to the deeper water out towards Wick and also the shallower water to the left of the swim over towards Denny Island. Back in the car to the car park at the end of the road and a quick walk to the end of Nunnery Point revealed this to be the case and with no other anglers around, it was an easy decision to make this our home for the day.

A short but very warm and sweaty walk (the thermometer in the car was showing a temperature of 14 Celsius at 05:00!) with only the necessary equipment and we were setting up. The usual double act ensued, with Mike setting up the shelter and chairs and I went about putting the rests in and the rods together. I offered Mike the choice of rods and he selected the right hand side of the swim. Such a simple question and one which doesn’t ever quite register as being particularly significant, but significant it proved to be. All four rods were rigged up with a simple running ledger rig, 4oz lead and a pair of size 2 trebles, standard fair when fishing for big pike with relatively large dead baits on big waters. The first rod was baited with a mackerel tail and was lobbed out about 40yrds towards Wick Green Point in what we believed to be around 10’ of water. The other three rods followed suit spread from right to left into open water and we sat back to take in the very pleasant morning. Just on first light a trout angler waded around onto the end of the point to our left but out of view. The kettle went on and an early breakfast of porridge was washed down with a nice cup of tea. What a morning, an absolute pleasure to be outside, warm and still, with the sun rising like the anticipation within us. A cacophony of bird life interspersed by the metronomic whoosh of fly line providing the backing track to another wonderful day by the water and with a tangible sense of something to come, there was nowhere else to be at that moment.

A single boat hurriedly passed through into Herons Green Bay at just on 08:30 and no sooner had they been obscured from our view by the stones jutting out into the water the right hand alarm burst into life!

Calmness remained. We’ve been here before. Just as I set off towards the rod the realisation that this was not my moment, struck me and I stopped dead. Calling Mike forward with line still peeling from the spool and the alarm seemingly responding to the bird life, he arose from his chair and approached the rod with confidence. I have an irritating inability to stifle the control freak in me and irrespective of my relative youth, I began to coach Mike through the process. Mike has only caught a handful of pike and fishing with open bail arms and rear drop offs is relatively alien to him, so it was well received.

He picked the rod from the rests and under instruction, flicked over the bail arm, wound down tight and lifted steadily into the fish. Line was taken under little tension and the word was given to tighten that drag down and bend into the fish to avoid the hooks slipping. Very quickly a better indication of what was attached was given as the 2.75lb TC rod took on a much more alarming battle curve and line was still taken from the reel. The fish kitted left towards the other lines and Mike responded by lowering the rod to the right and applying equal side strain. I reacted quickly and dropped the middle rods onto the ground with slack lines and urged Mike to keep the line under tension and the rod up high. The fish then broke the surface around 20yrds out and a stalemate was reached.

I took the net and waded out as far as my wellies would allow and asked Mike to walk slowly backwards with the spool clamped. “It looks a good double”, “Take it easy, nearly there”, “Bloody Hell it’s definitely a thirty!” as she slides into the waiting net without concern. It was a one way conversation, speech wasn’t possible at this stage for Mike as he focused all of his attention on ensuring that fish made it safely into the net, no doubt with memories of the issues he had netting my fish earlier in the year very prominent in his mind!

I stood with the fish in the net in the margin while Mike removed the rod and returned the other rods to their rests. I knelt down and unclipped the lead and trace, revealing the true frame of the fish for the first time. It was another mammoth clearly and I was fully aware at this stage of what had happened, but I wanted to retain the composure that surrounded us and simply asked Mike to prepare the mat, scales and camera up near the trees at the back of the swim and kneel down behind it. I removed the arms of the net from the spreader block and rolled them up in the mesh. I hoisted the fish from the water and carried it quickly over to the mat, at which time I noticed that the hooks had transferred themselves into the mesh of the net and were no longer in the fish. The scales had already been adjusted for the wet net, so she was weighed immediately with no need for unhooking.

A large slice of humble pie was served up to me at this stage as the needle on the Avon scales went round once, twice, three times, four…. Oops!

The needle swung past the 40lb mark and absent mindedly I stated that the fish had bottomed the scales when it reached 40lb 04oz, as had happened with my fish in February. The disappointment and frustration on Mike’s face was as clear as the joy had been seconds earlier. This was obviously a very big fish, but we were faced with the possibility of never knowing just how big. The fish was returned to the water in the net and a quick discussion was had regarding our options. There were none. There were no other anglers about and the best option for the fish was to take a few quick snaps and slip her back. Mike was adamant that any thought of retaining the fish while waiting for adequate scales was dismissed and he was right of course, the fish’s welfare was the priority and we would have to live with the “what might have been”.

Mike slipped on his Musky Armour gloves in preparation for holding the fish for the camera. Mike doesn’t wear gloves for handling pike due to a lack of confidence or a fear of the fish, but in order to protect an injury incurred as a result of a lawn mower accident, that actually caused the loss of the tip of his middle finger on his right hand.

A few very quick snaps were taken and Mike insisted that the fish were returned to the water irrespective of the quality of the photos taken. He had difficulty, due to the sheer size of the fish, holding and presenting it well for the camera, but that didn’t matter. He had caught it, shared a few precious moments in its presence, admiring its mighty spotted flank and feeling her bulk in his arms. The experience was enough.

The fish was returned to the water in the mat and Mike fired off a few release shots. As I cradled her in the margin I held onto that thickset tail wrist and with an effortless flick she filled my right boot with water and cruised away like a U-boat leaving port.

I turned to Mike and let out a “yeehah” and offered him my sincere congratulations, trying to cement that moment in both of our memories for eternity. Not much was said in reply, Mike was in awe of his achievement and I left him to breathe it all in sat in his chair, while I tidied the swim and readied the rod to be re-cast.

As I sat back down, I couldn’t shake the guilt that had enveloped me due to the unknown true weight. I put myself in that position, thinking about how I would have felt in February had Dave and Warren not stepped in to assist. We didn’t even have measurements of the fish to estimate the weight. It was a huge fish with an enormous girth and I started to mentally compare it to the images of my fish in my mind. Was it the same fish? No, it was definitely shorter but with a much bigger girth! I recounted the Avon scales when my fish was placed on them and recalled vividly the needle swinging much further past the 40lb mark and an audible indication when the spring had hit the bottom of the case, which was conspicuous by its absence on this occasion. I picked up the Avon's and started to pull and sure enough I pulled the needle past 44lbs before it wouldn’t go any further. Had the needle actually settled on 40lb 4oz? Mike was satisfied with my little demonstration and with the doubt visibly lifted, accepted the reading as the true weight of the fish.

I had decided that I would not make the same mistake again and only the most trusted of my angling friends would be informed of the day’s events, until after we had returned home, to ensure that we could fish for the remainder of the two day session unmolested.

The rest of the session passed by without event, save for a jack at last knockings and a rainbow trout to me on the second day.

We had another session booked the following Thursday/Friday and then another at the end of November. We ended the 2014 trials, having fished 8 days, catching fish weighing 44lb 06oz 40lb 04oz, 21lb 04oz 17lb 12oz and 17lb 10oz plus a jack, one 5lb Rainbow Trout and one 5lb Brown Trout. What a year it had been and dare I say it, one never to be repeated!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Fear & Loathing, Co Cavan

This could be a true story of two angling rogues who went on holiday, got into a little mischief but never hurt anyone, or alternatively it could be a load of nonsense, an urban myth if you like.  I like to think it’s a combination of the two but who cares?  I heard the tale at a drunken gathering of Pike fanatics, AKA the PAC convention Saturday night after show party and it made me laugh so I thought I’d share it.

Mr Green and Mr Red are lifelong friends who have shared a passion for Piking spanning four decades.  They’ve shared many memorable sessions both with rods on the bank and beers in the bar, many of their adventures have started with the former and finished with the latter.  This particular tale occurred in the mid-nineties when many European Pikers were making an annual pilgrimage to the great western loughs of Ireland.  Our colourful duo was typically slow off the mark and late on the scene.  They began their Irish adventures in the Midlands and gradually made their way west over the next few years.  Sadly by the time they felt ready to tackle the mighty western loughs the gill nets were in place.  This combined with the increasingly demanding females back home meant they never quite made it that far.

Living in the south east meant possibly the longest possible journey to Holyhead and with a weeks’ worth of fishing gear and a couple of spare sets of underwear crammed into a Peugeot 206 it was a potential grueller.  To pass the time Mr Red had acquired an ounce of high quality hashish, most of this was cunningly secreted around the car but there was just enough spare to pass the journey in a happy haze with Bob Marley’s “Songs of Freedom” the perfect accompaniment.  Not only were the two friends fond of a glass of beer or six they were also confirmed stoners.  The poor old Peugeot resembled Cheech & Chong’s van by the time Mr Green pulled into a lay by for a much needed slash.  It is not our place to judge the rights or wrongs of such actions; we merely recount the tale as it was told and repeat no person or pike was ever hurt.

And so, after the overnight ferry crossing and the normal routine of getting lost in Dublin the Peugeot eventually found its way out of the city in a Northerly direction and a couple of hours later arrived at its destination.  The Town was familiar to both Mr Green and Mr Red as they had explored the lakes and pubs in this area on a previous visit and found both agreeable.  After parting with some cash to secure the digs they opted to chill out and snooze beside a lake with bite alarms turned up loud!  The afternoon passed amidst a chorus of snoring and no Pike happened along to disturb their slumber.  The evening was spent in a pub of course, supping Irish Guinness, the finest beer in the world.  Acquaintances made on a previous holiday were renewed but the night didn’t get too messy.

The following morning was spent at another lake, this one a bit further down the valley, one where the two Pikers had caught a few fish on a previous visit.  Mr Green opened his account for the week with a couple of jacks but Mr Red failed to find any fish.  With limited bank access and unspectacular results they decided on a move to another water, stopping in town on the way for supplies.  The menu included fresh sausages from the local butchers.  Now every Irishman knows of a special lake full of big Pike and the butcher was no exception.  Mr Green was all for following the lead but grumpy Mr Red who was still blanking would have none of it.

So the two visited another lake where they had enjoyed previous success but again the fishing was poor.  For a while the two were entertained by the antics of a herd of cows in the field on the far side of the lake.  The cattle were repeatedly stampeding from one side of the field to the other and making a suitable racket as they did so.  This hardly made the afternoon a peaceful one but neither angler was disturbed by any Pike that afternoon so a restless Mr Green left the drowsy Mr Red in charge of the rods while he went for a wander.  Sometime later Mr Red opened his eyes to find the indicators still firmly in place and no sign of Mr Green so he did what he always did at times of confusion and rolled a joint.

Another doze and another joint later Mr Green finally reappeared beaming from ear to ear and holding a bulging carrier bag.  Mr Red yawned and stretched, looking at his friend quizzically he asked “What the fuck you got there then?”  The grin on Mr Green’s face broadened and with a sparkle in his eye he replied “Fungi”.  “What the fuck?” said Mr Red.  “Very special fungi…magic even” laughed Mr Green.  At this point the penny finally dropped and Mr Red joined in the laughter.  Things were about to get a little strange on this holiday.  The carrier bag was literally full of thousands of tiny thin stemmed fungi… which possibly explained the mad cows.
Back at the cottage Mr Red was beginning to have his doubts.  He wouldn’t know a Liberty cap from the liberty bell so wasn’t completely sure about the lumpy, foul smelling mushroom soup his friend had cooked up.  Mr Green necked his with no hesitation so Mr Red thought ‘in for a penny...’ and did the same.  Half an hour later while shaving, Mr Red noticed he’d managed to cut himself in several places and it was at this point he realised that he was feeling very, very strange.  He returned to the living room to see a wild eyed Mr Green laughing manically.
 “What’s up?” asked Mr Red  “I’m watching the cartoons in the curtains” replied Mr Green.
So Red found himself a comfortable chair, skinned up and settled back to enjoy the cartoons, caught Green’s eye and joined in the laughter.  Sure enough the curtains were alive with Tom & Jerry, Micky Mouse and just about every other cartoon character remembered from their youth.  Everything in the room looked completely different; there were waves in the carpet, the table was hovering and the walls were wobbling.

After a while the cartoons needed a soundtrack so Mr Green, acting as DJ decided that some loud dance music was the order of the day.  Traversing the room to reach the stereo was much more difficult than it had any right to be and removing the CD from its case then getting it to play was ridiculous.  The effort was worthwhile as the music coming from the stereo (“Leftism” by Leftfield) not only hit the spot but was clearly visible oozing from the speakers in the form of millions of microscopic, multi-coloured particles and even the lamp was dancing.  These two characters were experienced trippers but this was something else!  To this day both are adamant that night was their best trip, with the possible exception of…

The terrible twosome would have been happy to spend a chilled out evening of blissful madness tripping in the cottage but things were about to take another unexpected turn.  Mr Green, being slightly less wrecked than Mr Red decided to make a brew and staggered towards the kitchen.  Just as he stood filling the kettle at the sink he was startled out of his socks by a loud bang on the kitchen window.  Mr Green screamed, Mr Red got a fit of the giggles and the kitchen door opened.  There stood John, the owner of the cottage who insisted on taking the pair for a drink at one of the many local pubs.  Now John was a very likeable bloke but was not a man who would ever get a job as a male model; thick curly hair, milk bottle glasses and bad acne.  John’s appearance did not prejudice the duo in the slightest but in their mind altered state he looked very, very funny.  Despite their protests, John would not take no for an answer and the two tripping Pikers found themselves staggering into shoes and wandering down the pub.
Mr Red and Mr Green could probably have just about handled a quiet drink in a near empty pub but instead found themselves crammed into “Flaherty’s” which had some kind of quiz night going on and was absolutely heaving.  Mr Red managed to squeeze through to the bar where he was only slightly surprised to find the row of bottles morphing and merging into one.  He could hardly utter any legible words so it was a relief when John hailed the barman and ordered three black pints.  Mr Green stood grinning and every time he caught the eye of his friend the two had a struggle to suppress a fit of the giggles.  They were never sure just how strange their behaviour was that evening or whether they were really receiving lots of strange looks or was it paranoia?  They blamed their obviously odd behaviour on fatigue and alcohol.  When safely back at the cottage, Mr Red skinned up again and asked “D’ya think we got away with it?”  He met the gaze of Mr Green and both collapsed once more under the weight of laughter.

For some reason these two dedicated Pikers were not at the lakeside to watch the sun rise the following morning.  Instead the sun was well up and shining too brightly for this bewildered pair.  Mr Green was determined they should follow the butcher’s tip and head for the lake in the hills.  Mr Red was positive this would be another wild goose chase but was too wrecked to come up with any reasonable objection so Mr Green held sway.  Mr Red sulked.
They eventually parked on a verge beside a gate and viewed the lake below them, approximately 60 acres with two large bays connected by a slightly narrower channel.  The water was mostly fringed with reeds with the odd bush and a few places where grass grew down to the water’s edge, probably kept clear by cattle needing a drink.  The two were lucky that one of these clear patches lay before them, not only that it was in a pretty good position on the edge of the narrow area.  The only trouble was the steep hill between the road and the water’s edge.  This would cause little problem on the way down but would be a grueller on the return.  A few minutes later the two, puffing and sweating, arrived at the water and began to tackle up.  Mr Red decided to cast a plumb rod around and was unhappy to find a maximum depth of a paltry three feet which did nothing to improve his mood.  “Bloody butcher” he said before slinging a couple of bait out and sitting down with a frown to commence the creation of yet another spliff.  Mr Green was more optimistic and put the kettle on with a smile.

Neither angler managed to complete their task before an alarm sounded, Mr Red had a fast take on a Herring whacked as far as possible.  He connected and started heaving a Pike towards the bank.  “Feels like a jack “; he said and almost smiled before the fish shook the hooks loose.  Mr Red’s bout of swearing was quite restrained under the circumstances.  The Herring was whacked out again and both returned to their chairs.  Mr Red had just skilfully inserted the roach when the same alarm sounded again.  Once again he wound down and set the hooks and had the rod slammed down as a good fish took line straight away, then launched itself airborne.  Mr Red kept in touch but the Pike leapt for a second time, shaking its head and throwing the hooks.  This time his swearing was fully unrestrained.

Once he’d calmed down a little Mr Red said “That was a good un, big double…”
“Maybe a twenty” said Mr Green
“That helps, thanks” replied Mr Red in a pained voice.  After a long silence Mr Green said “Best you light that Joint”.

From that point the day got much better, Mr Red finally managed to bank a fish, a small one but the monkey was off his back.  Mr Green joined in the action too and takes came regularly throughout the day.  Most action came to rods cast as far as possible into slightly deeper water but the occasional fish picked up baits placed close to the numerous weed beds closer to their bank.  There were no monsters but several good doubles graced their nets and both were in good heart.  By the time they staggered coughing and wheezing back up the hill their tally was fifteen Pike but both were sure the leaping Pike that Mr Red had lost was a few pounds heavier than any they’d managed to land.
This gave the pair of Pikers a confidence boost and from that point on their fishing luck improved.  They sensibly resisted the lure of that massive bag of mushrooms and even more sensibly decided to rest the lake in the hills for a day or two.  An hour’s drive to the mighty Lough Allen saw a nice fish for Mr Red then a day in a boat on another lake saw both catching plenty on lures and trolled baits.  Both successful days were toasted with lots of Guinness in Flaherty’s where by now the regulars had forgotten their earlier oddness and welcomed them warmly.  To not flirt with the barmaid was considered the height of rudeness by Mr Red who tried to be polite as possible, to barmaids at least.  Back at the cottage the hash block took a hammering.
With one full day left Mr Red took no persuading to follow Mr Green’s suggestion that they spend it at the lake in the hills.  Being a superstitious soul Mr Green also suggested they repeat a winning formula and neck a load more mushrooms the night before and once again Mr Red eagerly agreed.  This trip did not reach the heights of the first but they giggled a lot, the music still oozed and they definitely didn’t go to the pub!  They even managed to crawl out of bed and get to the lake at first light the following day.

Once again the pair had a busy day with frequent takes but things were not as hectic as before.  As on the first day most takes came to long range baits, both managed double figure fish and both were thoroughly stoned.  A beautiful sunset was toasted with a final cup of tea then the pair reluctantly began packing up.  Green set about the task quickly but Red hates this job and is always very slow.  So with most of his gear packed Mr Green stood holding his last rod while he waited for his friend to catch up.  “All I need is for the tip to tap and the line pull out of my fingers…” he said.
Mr Red’s sarcastic reply had barely died when Green exclaimed “Fucking hell...I’ve got a fucking take!”

“Fuck off!” laughed Red but his friend was serious and wound into a final Pike.
When we heard this tale both Green and Red had slightly different memories/versions of the various events but one of the things they were unanimous about; This Pike fought like hell.  It stripped yards of line off Green’s reel and threatened to dive into the thick reeds on numerous occasions.  At times it seemed impossible to land this fish but eventually it succumbed, Red made no mistake with the net and Green had a whacker!  She was unhooked by torchlight, weighed and photographed then returned where she swam away strongly.  The holiday was complete, it couldn’t get any better or could it?
That night Green and Red made a final trip to Flaherty’s where they received another warm welcome, particularly Red’s favourite barmaid.  During the course of the evening it became apparent she was more than friendly.  To use the words of Mr Red “She was dripping like a fucked fridge”.  In fact she was more than willing to accommodate both of the hairy arsed Pikers.  It may be because he had a girl back home or it may have been the thought of a sweaty Mr Red grinning like a loon.  Either way and to his credit Mr Green did not take the good lady up on her offer.  Mr Red is not so chivalrous…

Twenty four hours later Mr Red was still grinning and Mr Green had a broad smile too, not even the misery of the M6 could dampen their spirits.  Green drove, Red skinned up and both laughed regularly as they reminisced on the past week..  “What did you do with the Mushies?” Red asked.  “In the cool box..” said Green “…it’s the first time we’ve ever gone on holiday and come back with more drugs than we left with!”