Obsessive Compulsive Disorder can be a debilitating illness, and manifests itself in many different ways. Some people have to count the stairs every time they climb them. Some have to arrange their wardrobe in a certain order, and Gazza wouldn’t leave his house until he’d cleaned all his shoes twice.
I think I have a touch of OCD when it comes to my fishing. I always plan my trips like military operations and spend a lot of time thinking about where I should go, what tactics and tackle will be best, where the pike will be sitting, which baits to use etc. etc. . Once I’m happy and confident with the plan I’ll spend two hours the night before sorting and cleaning my kit, making up the rods and rethinking my plan again before hitting the sack. Every time I go fishing I have to follow this procedure, and if I don’t I just don’t feel like I’m going to catch!
Now this probably seems like anal behaviour to most hairy arsed pikers, but I actually enjoy the planning and preparation almost as much as the fishing, and like to think that more often than not it maximises my chances of putting fish on the bank. One thing I am sure of though, is that it gives me confidence. If I’m not confident the chances are I’m not going.
Last Friday was an instance where it paid off. I checked the weather- after a couple days of light rain the next few were dry so the river would be in good condition. I noted the wind was turning to a South Easterly, the moon was waning gibbous, and the day would be mild with sunshine. A positive combination in my head. Usually either the river conditions or the weather is against you in this part of the world.
Now where to go? I had a flick through last year’s fishing diary (I know, I know!), then mentally went through each of the twenty odd different stretches I fish. I decided on a one mile stretch that has a powerful flow throughout, except for two large slacks. I’d never fished it in good conditions and only had mediocre results, but it was classic pike territory and I’d always thought it would throw up a good fish in the right conditions. I’d fish the biggest slack on the stretch as it looked a great lay-up and ambush point for any pike.
Now for the tactics – the river would be fairly clear, chances are the pike would be feeding primarily by sight so my favourite float-legered rig with a popped-up dead-bait would be spot on.
I’d get there at first light and put in a few chopped up baits in whilst setting up, fishing a washed-out roach on one rod close to the bank at the back of the slack, and on the second rod a whole fresh bluey, just on the edge of the main river flow. I prefer washed-out freshwater baits as I believe the big old females see them as a natural and easy meal, and my four largest pike have all come to these. When it comes to sea baits though I prefer super fresh as I’m sure their main attraction is the scent/blood they give off.
After turning my living room into a tackle shop and selecting all the gear I’d need, cleaning it all, making up the rods and filling the cool bag I was so confident that I posted on the Pikers’ Pit forum that I had a feeling a good day would be had. I then slipped into bed for a quick four hours of kip.
On arrival at the bank it all looked as I’d imagined, and after spreading a few chopped baits around I positioned my baits as per my plan. My OCD then kicked in big time and I spent the next half an hour arranging the unhooking mat, sling, scales, landing net, packed lunch, camera etc. etc. in military order until everything was ship shape and Bristol fashion!
To be honest I was expecting a run within the first hour or two, but nothing was happening. I rethought my plan but it still made sense to me and I was confident something would happen sooner or later. After three hours with not even a tremble I suppose most people would have upped sticks or changed tactics, but everything still seemed right and my confidence remained high. The day trundled on, with the sun now shining brightly. A few dace started to show, flipping at the surface and my positive (or delusional!) thinking suggested maybe there was a big old girl down there herding them up for a feast. I looked at the swim, thought about my rigs, about the position of my baits etc. and still felt confident that I was doing everything right - there must be a pike in this slack and that at some point it would want one of my baits!
Six hours after arriving the float positioned nearest to the bank gave a slight tremor, a bob, and by the time I’d moved the four feet to the rods it had slid confidently below the surface and was moving at a rapid pace towards me. I picked the rod out of the rest and reeling like a maniac to pick up the slack I wound down and struck confidently to feel that solid resistance we all love.
Off she went, slowly gathering speed, heading out of the slack into the main flow; which is exactly where I didn’t want her to go! I tightened the clutch but she had locked the rod up and was still pulling line off, so I manoeuvred up the bank slightly and used as much side strain as I dare. It slowed her up and she did a hundred and eighty degree turn and headed back into the slack, this time intent on reaching the roots of an overhanging tree. Who says pike are dumb? Not me! After putting up a dogged ten minute fight -twice powering away when a foot from the net- I eventually slid the net under her. A good fish too! I knew it would happen.
She’d put up such a tremendous fight that I wanted to get her back in as soon as possible. Luckily my OCD had made me set the camera up all framed and focused on arrival, so after an easy unhooking, a quick weigh and three quick snaps I had her back in the water within a minute or so. I nursed her in the margin till she told me she was ready, and with a sweep of her tail she swam back to the depths as powerfully as she’d come in. What majestic creatures these big river pike are, combating the powerful flow day in day out leaves them solid without an ounce of fat, and this one turned out to be my third biggest river pike ever at a hefty 27lb 11oz.
Now I’m not saying this is the way to go about it, it’s just MY way. I have a friend who is just as successful as me but has the polar opposite approach. He makes no plan, never sorts or cleans his gear, grabs any bait he happens to have, chucks his rods in the car, arrives at the bank and everything he does is decided on the spot. He has no OCD, no premeditated strategy, he just takes it as it comes and he enjoys his fishing just as much as I do. The one thing we do both have in common though is confidence in what we are doing, and most of the successful anglers I know have this in buckets . So think positive, be confident and may the force be with you!