Ready for a tale ?. Long winded me..me..me.. tale ?. Hit the X and flip back into somewhere else hyper- space if you don’t !
Back a few years, I was tearing about trying to catch river Queens and hit on a stretch along with my pal Lyn . Something special was happening on this stretch as between us we caught six different 19lb+ fish. This stretch could explode as these fish were young looking and were all only going one way , 20lb+.
We felt we could be looking at a 2 mile stretch of river with 6 or more 20lbers in the coming winters with possible “travellers” mixed in. One incident stood out, I caught a lizard shaped pike with a huge head and a very distinctive mark under its jaw. When unhooking her I noticed a thick trace down her gut with only a couple of inches of wire in view, no swivel, probably the trace was cut short by another angler. It was freezing cold and I made the decision to try and get the trace out, to do this I needed another long set of forceps to try and grip the bit of wire in view and get a decent pull to lift the stomach out of the pike while I could use the forceps I was carrying to do the honours. I tubed the fish up and took the walk back to the car to get another set of long forceps.
It was a hell of a game to get the hooks out and I must have had the fish out of the water for 5-6 mins while I pushed and pulled and twisted the ironmongery out of this fish. I held her in the water for an age , blood exploding from her gills before she slowly swam away. The matt was covered in her small scales, this was a fish on its way out. I wondered if I’d done the right thing.The stretch was getting very little attention so I was surprised to catch a fish in such a “two and eight” , maybe she had “travelled” in from elsewhere?.
Lyn packed in fishing sadly due to tragedy in his life and I do very much still miss his extreme dedication to the river. On the plus side I had it all near enough to myself with just the odd pikey visitor catching next to nothing as they didn’t return. Logistically easier the conventional sexy looking pike spots were at the top end of the stretch but me and Lyn found the bottom end and it’s underwater structure was the place to be for starters. The Lizard fish turned up again for me the following season looking just fine and dandy at 22lb, she was unlike the other fish on the stretch, shorter but with a bigger frame.
Steve Bown and I became close mates travelling around together but separately chasing pike all over the place, Steve knew I was having a few out from somewhere as I had this banker stretch to make up for the endless and fruitless hours chasing The Lydia Fish ( PAC30 ). I took Steve down and he had a 20 and a 19 on his first two drop-ins, big smiles and hugs from one of pikings true gents and a proper piker to boot. Over the following three winters the stretch took off big style. I knew the stretch really well and had an idea where the pikes sitting positions might be along the length in different water conditions. At its rare and very best I caught 3 x 20’s on short two hour mid-week trips on five separate occasions. With the fish in front of me, combined with perfect conditions it could be three drop-ins and three Clampdowns and three 20’s, incredible fishing. This was the pikeing of my lifetime as there were at least 12 different resident 20’s about at that time with always a pop up “traveller ” passing through. Dream pike fishing like this is just so, so precious and I was extremely lucky to find it and have it near enough to myself.
The Lizard fish was a little different and very much a “loner” I only once caught her as part of a brace or trifector as she moved around a lot, she was the one I felt might go 30lb+ as at the back end of the previous season as I had caught her at 27.12, unlike others she very much had the frame to do it.
I obviously reflected after three seasons as recaptures were part of the deal, especially the Lizard fish as I’d now caught her on four different occasions, Billy and the Doc caught her too and to my complete astonishment the Doc caught her a second time 4 miles away. Careful experienced handling on difficult banks from us all was paramount at all times.
I had a plan, a very final season plan. Barbeling twice a week through the next September I decided to prebait a little spot no one else would be barking mad enough to fish!. Twice a week in the dark I piled it in, 10lb of chopped fish at a time, a mountain of pre- bait. First trip at the beginning of Oct, first chuck with a soggy sardine I had a 20 followed by a couple of Jacks and then came a big surprise. A completely new fish turned up, a stunner and with my first winter trip pike goggles on I thought she was a 30, on the scales a 28.02. Wow !, I was blown away. Billy looked at the photos and with his eye for detail noticed this was The Lampard fish we’d all been trying to track down, in and out miles away. "Long and lean,had not scoffed my prebait, right fish wrong time of year" read my diary entry !. There were now likely two possible back end 30’s around with attending 20’s on the stretch and perhaps a “traveller” or two. This was all a bit mind blowing to be honest and something I have not come across before or since during my thirteen winters pretty hard at it.This was at the time the best river pikeing two miles in the UK.
Then the nightmare happened, it was always going to happen at some point. Whist netting the Lizard fish and clambering up the bank with her, the big ugly, pea brained bearded earwig mug of a bailiff came out of no- where, his eyes popped out of his head as I weighed her at 29.14 and photographed the fish. He noticed a pike tube in the water and accused me of having live baits in it. I had two choices , I could quietly stab my long nosed forceps through his eye sockets, twisting and turning stainless steel until his wailing and gagging stopped, carry the mug to the car and bury him in the forest or get the pike tube out of the water. I was in two minds but opted for the later!. I pulled out the tube to reveal a pike of 26.12.The previous two seasons when bumping into this mug I always told him I had caught the odd jack. The place then started to get attention as the “word” was out.
The following few weeks saw pikers in the easy comfortable swims and by the looks of it inexperienced ones too. The Doc then caught the bearded mug of a bailiff and his weasel faced partner pikeing with 8lb mono main line, they’d probably never caught a pike in their life. The area was always snaggy and baits attached to traces were going to be left in the water. My brain was scrambling and the madness took over. My irritability was alive and kicking , these were my fish , I’d followed them for four years, in and out, thick and thin. I loved them all. I could go round stabbing people with forceps, slashing car tyres, tipping paint strippers over bonnets and getting really evil but it’s not in my nature. My mind got “ back to nature”.
I went to the pound shop and purchased 100 bars of soap and littered the bottom of the swims hoping to move any pike from an area by making the water a little uncomfortable. I went to other stretches as I had other plans. I dropped in now and again, just to have a look more than anything, the place was getting hammered, pikeing litter started to dominate the floor. The 100 bar soap trick didn’t work, pike were caught !. In retrospect this was a wrong thing to do, I was stupid. The Lizard fish took a battering after a capture I was told, she was getting old and as can be the case with some big fish in the last year or three of their life they trip up a lot and get caught.
The winter was harsh fortunately and baits had to be really on the button of a pikes snout to get a fish or two, I was fishing elsewhere and doing my own thing dropping in very occasionally if I’d blanked elsewhere just to have a nosey more than anything else. As the snows came I became obsessed with trying to catch pike elsewhere in the snow and getting the pics and back drops, luckily with a 4x4 I could get out and about. The snow backdrops were stunning and saw me out and about two or three times a week with not a soul in site. Fan-bloody-tastic although the fishing was very, very tough and physically demanding as the banks were frighteningly difficult to fish, I was enjoying it all big time !. After a un-fruitful afternoon in snow drifts I dropped in on the stretch for the last hour, it was bitterly cold with ice across some of the river. Minus 13 temperatures were being recorded in the valley.
Dropping down bait size is important in these conditions, I clipped on a four inch roach and plopped her out under very little weight and my smallest home made float. The bait tore around and became agitated in one spot, steering the bait towards the spot again the bait didn’t like it in one little area. I put on a fresh bait for a fresh tear around to be met with the same agitation. Little break, coffee and a little run around to keep warm. The plan now is to fish until dark and second hand daylight to try and get the bait to actually swim into the pike, a combination of really fresh baits and balanced presentation and careful hook positioning is needed to actually get a bait to tear around the swim. I’m a great believer in the “tear up” principle. In the back to nature world, often if an animal is going mental in front of other animals they will kill it to put an end the madness they see and feel before them . Pike I believe are no different, they will kill madness very close to them, even if they are not switched on to go on the munch. The “tear up” is difficult to describe, but is most certainly not the steady live bait plod and gentle nod and dip of a float after a cast or two , the bait needs a drop in. Another fresh bait and a little more depth set to trip bottom, although you can’t see what’s going on in eight foot water I just knew there was a pike there and could be my only chance of the day.
Drop-in, just upstream of the spot and the tear around begins. This time Clampdown !, the float bangs under but moves no more than a few inches, always a good sign of a big pike.
Count one lizard, count two lizard, count three lizard and whack, hooks set. Big head shake down below and then up to the surface. The Lizard fish. Two head shakes and in the net. It was so cold I couldn’t weigh her properly with my whole body shaking from cold and the adrenalin buzz, my hands were stinging. The scales bounced and shook between 28-30lb in the fading light viewed through my steamed up reading glasses. I settled on “what-ever” . I packed up and ran back to the car as the Dream Girl phoned me to inform the roads home were being closed due to snow and ice drifts.
And then came the Otters but that’s another article with photos and carnage.
Thank-you for reading to the end.