Monday, 30 April 2012

" Just Like Buses "

Steve Bown
I’m sure all you Poolsiders will have by now read my account untitled ‘Down by the River’ where I retold the account of how after the best part of twenty years predator angling on some of the finest running waters in this land I finally managed to break a long standing personal best of 9lb 5oz by raising my Zander bar over the double figure barrier to 15lb 4oz.

Well to say fish started me on a roll would be somewhat of an understatement and in the weeks that followed leading to the end of the season I experience some of the finest and most exciting fishing of my life; and that from a bloke who has experienced plenty of fine and exciting fishing over the years.

Now a change in direction was just what I needed. The previous season had seen finances tight and my regular long distance piking trips to ‘God’s river’ were having the edge knocked off them by the cost and more significantly the fact that all those quiet little out of the way places I used to sneak off to were now full of anglers. Every legend in their own rucksack had been heading off to the valley, snagging a one or two big pike and splashing it all over the weeklies and social networking sites encouraging everyone else to get on the gold rush and so it was no surprise to find added pressure on my beloved river.

Being at a bit of a loss and having a stressful year at home and work I didn’t really start fishing until December and I didn’t get into the full flow until the Christmas break. I’d already decided that Gods River could wait for season and I’d concentrate closer to home and target the best fish I could locally and by that I mean within 50 miles of home. I’d also had a boat sat on my drive for years going no-where and I love boat fishing so I was getting a double dose on inspiration to get out on the local rivers and to do most of this fishing from my boat.

Naturally I chose to target the Zander which proliferate in my local rivers and grow to true specimen sizes unlike the neighbouring pike.  Having  ‘got the monkey off my back’ with the 15.04 I was full of confidence with the Zeds but a cold snap lasting weeks was to pour cold water on this idea until on a cold day in February I was to have another PB with a 9.08 out of the lesser of my local rivers that fell to a sardine whilst piking. This was a real bonus and as the temperature began to rise again I my thoughts turned to the other river that had done me so proud a few weeks earlier.

After 2 weeks of evenings in the garage getting my boat ready I was ready to launch her and for the first time in years I was out afloat on Sabrina. The first trip out saw another 9 pounder to my rods and fish of 9lb plus and 10.07 to my good friend and boat partner for the day, Matt Rance. I felt I was onto something special here and vowed to now spend every possible chance until the end of the season ‘up and out and at ‘em’ having first cleared the way for the end of season madness with my poor long suffering wife, Lucie.
And so to the day of my 42nd birthday, I always like to fish on my birthday and a morning on the boat with my best mucker Rob was to be followed by an afternoon on the bank with team Sarkar, or Dil and Karen as they’re otherwise known. The river was looking lovely turning green and fineing down with a couple of feet of extra water on. I was soon into fish and one particular swim saw Zed after Zed coming to alternate rods as Rob and I took turns to trot a rather productive crease.  With a couple of 9 pounders in the boat the fishing was as good as it gets but I soon had to retire to the bank for the second part of the day.

Within minutes of arriving on the stretch and having shared greetings and civilities with team Sarkar I was soon fishing and quickly netting a ‘schoolie’ in my chosen swim. The Zeds seemed to really be on the feed and rods were trembling every few minutes. I started to twitch baits and as I lifted the first rod baited with half a roach for the 5th time something grabbed the bait and after a spirited fight that saw the fish head around the only obstruction on the river, I soon slipped the net under my second double figure Zander weighing in as 14lb 02oz. Chuffed to bits with my ‘birthday fish’ I fished on and caught several more small zeds and then lost one that I still have nightmares about that popped up mid river to show me how massive she was before screaming off under a bankside snag where I eventually straightened the hook as I hung on tight.

Next trip out was a few days later and despite a coloured river the Zander weren’t playing ball but this was not a disappointment as the pike were. With several nice doubles coming to the boat as well as bonus Salmon Kelt that gave me a bit of a surprise as it grabbed a small crankbait.

I’m loving this boating lark and I was soon slipping her off the trailer again with another mate and catching some nice Zander in the home of the Bard. The following day I was back on the other river and a slow days fishing saw my first bite of the day come in the late afternoon but boy was I pleased. At 14lb 7oz this fish was an absolute peach. That evening we fished well into dark and several more nice Zeds came to the boat including another 9 pounder for me and a brace of 11’s for Matt.

We weighed the biggest of the brace first and I had to check the scales several times. Photos taken and well and truly nailed by Rob she went and kicked off strong. The first fish weighed in at 10lb 15oz’s, my 4th double of an already incredible season. The biggest of the brace hit the scales at an incredible 18lb and  4oz’s and somewhere in the 20’s on a big list of things Zed like. The combined weight was 29lb 3oz.

I was and still am stunned by this, just 6 weeks after finally breaking the double barrier I put an incredible amount of time and effort into a few weeks fishing and had caught a fish that every Zander angler would die happy catching. I have topped that long standing PB no less than 9 times in those 6 weeks taking 5 doubles in the process and as you can probably guess I’m already looking forward to next season.

The madness was now nearly over now and I had just 2 days left to fish hard before the season closed. The first day was on my own. Launching before first light saw me soon into fish but whether it be pike or Zander it was a day for small fish but plenty of them. I netted 9 pike and 7 Zander loosing a lump on my vey last bait that forced me to call it a day well into dark again. A great days fishing in anyone’s book and a nice haul to put a smile on my face and I drove home tierd. I left the boat on the back of the car and just crawled into bed when I got home ready to give it ‘the biggun’ on the last day. I met Rob Shallcroft at the slipway early doors and we headed up river in search of another big Zed. We watched the sounder and settled on a likely looking spot and a few rattles and taps were soon giving away the presence of feeding Zander. Rob’s float bobbed and attentive as ever he was soon into a nice fish that at first we thought might go the weight but just failed to make doubles. A call from my little lad Charlie before school broke the morning silence as he shouted ‘catch a big fish Daddy’ down the phone. A few minutes later I was to do as he asked as my float sailed away and I quickly struck into a hard fighting Zander that was netted superbly by Rob and looked very big indeed. But before I could lift her into the boat and admire her I saw my other float vanish and again I quickly struck into a solid head banging lump of Zander. This fish felt even heavier and was charging towards the marginal trees, I really had to pull back hard but when after several minutes of playing this fish she showed herself at the back of the boat I eased off the clutch and sank to my knees and took it very, very steady indeed because ‘SHE WAS FOOKIN MASSIVE’.

Rob had got things sorted and the first fish was in the sling and over the side of the boat. He was ready with the net and despite looking as shocked as I was, Rob superbly netted her and whilst I went to bits he made sure I had my baits back out before he would let me sit back, light a fag and have a coffee !.
I eventually calmed down ready to do the business of putting numbers on these two zoo creatures that were sat side by side in the big sling.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Opportunity Knocks

Danny Taylor

Pike are a fickle fish. Some days they can be mad on the feed and almost suicidal when hunting. On other days they can be frustrating to say the least: skulking, digesting food, waiting for some kind of primeval force or other “trigger” which will spring them into feeding mode. 

As pike anglers, we hope that our days sport will coincide with the pike embarking on such a feeding frenzy, but more often than not, it is seldom the case. However every now and again external factors and human influences collide to provide us pike fishermen with a session to remember.


The winter of 2010/2011 was savage. The country was gripped by plummeting temperatures and cruel winds from the eastern continent. Snow fell in droves and our waterways where clad in an iron grip of frost and ice. For weeks the ice lingered, and up and down the country anglers suffered from “cabin fever” as they longed to angle once more. 

These Siberian temperatures mattered little to old Esox. Under the ice, temperatures would have stabilised and once accustomed, the pike would be quite at home marauding prey, free from human intervention. In fact the pike would have thrived, under the lid of the ice, where little light would penetrate, in that eerie twilit watery world the pike would be at an advantage. Creeping around in the gloom, using its amazing senses to ambush and attack its prey; which would be grouped tight together, like cryogenically preserved embryos. 

On the canal that I fish there are a few boatyards and marinas dotted along its length that have no access for anglers. I have long come to the conclusion that big old pike have learnt to seek refuge in these areas and seldom roam far, preferring to linger in these man-made havens. These urban pike have waxed fat on easy pickings free from the pressures imposed by anglers. As the winter intensified and the ice remained these “queens” began to forage and hunt further from their lairs, their confidence grows due to a lack of angling pressure. They would venture from these boatyards, basins and marinas and enter the main canal system. At home I watched the weather forecasts with a keen eye. I studied the long range forecasts on the internet. Eagerly, I awaited the thaw, as I knew that this would be a golden opportunity to meet up with one of these urban myths. Come what may, when the ice receded, I would be there ready and waiting for the predator to become the prey.  

At last the temperatures grudgingly lifted. My window of opportunity approached and I knew that within a couple of days the ice would thaw. I had a short period of time where I knew that these big pike would be susceptible as they would be out in the “open”. This was a unique opportunity. Traces where made, bait stocked up and tackle prepared, I was ready! Friday was to be the day. Being self-employed I pulled some strings and loaded the car on Thursday night ready for an early start the next day.

That night I couldn’t sleep my mind was in overdrive and eventually I got up, made a brew and prepared a plate of England’s finest.

It was still dark when I left the house on that January morning. Stars glinted in the black sky and the car was coated in a layer of frost. It was still hit and miss if the canal would be frozen or not so I had a couple of other possible locations to try. I raced to my first spot. I wanted to have the baits in the water for first light, I love driving at this time of the morning the roads are quite, the only company being the tunes blasting out.

The first area I looked at was frozen, as was the second. The sun was now up, had I missed my chance? Defeated I drove home, and I looked in on one more spot, more out of hope than anything else. I couldn’t believe my luck it was ice free! If only I had tried here first. I felt that I may have missed a prime feeding spell but I was still going to give it a go. The canal here had not seen an angler for weeks, I had a day off work and a full flask if nothing else it would be nice just to soak up the weak winter sun and relax. Out went the baits, a sardine, joey and mackerel tail. I settled back pouring myself a brew, the drink hadn’t touched my lips when in the corner of my eye I noticed the float creeping along the water’s surface, “I see you” I said under my breath. As I moved forward the float bobbed twice then slid under the surface moving steadily away. I paused momentarily then reeled down and heaved the rod back keeping the rod bent until I felt the thump and shake as I connected with what lay beneath. The rod held round and the fish stayed deep, always a good sign. After gaining some line she loomed up through the water all green, blue and silver. She shook her head, gills flaring crimson as she came to the surface. The water exploded as she sounded and I gave her line letting her run. With the rod held low I applied side strain and turned her, then pumped the rod back. The net was readied and as she wallowed heavily on the surface I drew her over the net, she was mine. All that anticipation, waiting and planning and it was all over in less than 10 minutes of arriving at the water. The pike was a superb specimen and at 24Ib 2oz she was a rare pike for the “cut“.

I admired her solid thick set frame and her silvery yellow “leopard” spots decorated the flanks. The only blemish to her armor was a wart like growth on her side. It gave her character which made her even more unique. She was a true “urban queen” a pike that will always mean a lot to me, she remains my best pike from my local canal. A canal that I have fished since I was a kid and have come to know intimately. I lay on the towpath holding the pike by the root of her tail feeling for the strength to return to the fish’s body. The outside world was far away even the sounds of the morning rush hour seemed muted as I gazed down at the pike, the hunter and his quarry, the only sensation I was aware of was the stinging cold of the water. The pike’s gills pulsed and her fins began to furl as power once more built within her. With a flick of the tail she was gone, disappearing into the icy water. Jobs a “good’un”.

Keep an open mind as these “windows of opportunity” are there to be exploited by the thinking pike angler.

A Manipulative Opportunity

We all know pike as the sleek, fast killers of the freshwater world. But the pike is much more than that, as an apex predator, it has evolved over millennia to adapt to any feeding opportunity that comes its way. Pike will exploit the most unlikely of food sources one of the pikes favourite prey items are dead and dying fish. Big old females don’t want to waste energy hunting and chasing fit and healthy fish. Instead they much prefer to scavenge and scour the lake bed in search of the “departed” We as pike anglers have long realised this and we can manipulate this behavioural trait of the pike to our own advantage. By regularly baiting an area with chopped fish we can condition and influence the pike to feed confidently. The pike will overtime associate the baited area with food and begin to make daily visits to feed on these easy pickings. 

This is a method that I have long considered trying but for whatever reason had not got round to it. An opportunity arose for me to use this method. I had struggled to get into my piking and had not ventured out as much as previous seasons, I had recently moved house and had to leave my old bait freezer behind due to a lack of space. However I had a glut of dead baits that would go to waste so what better than to begin a mini baiting campaign. Now I’m not going to profess to adopting a precise and calculated baiting programme. Instead I could see that due to predicted frosts my local canal would freeze over. I decided to tip the lot into a favoured area, allow the “lid” to form and return in due course having hopefully left the pike to dine in peace.
It had been a week since I had applied the prebait, the ice had thawed a couple of days earlier and I now felt that it would be worth giving the area a go, just a short evening session of a couple of hours to gauge the baited areas potential.

It was a perfect pike angler’s day. The January sky was cloudless and as blue as the ocean, a good stiff breeze ruffled and creased the canals surface and the air felt chill and fresh. I soon had three baits out and the orange tipped floats bobbed and rode the choppy water like fiery beacons.

This area of canal was quite peaceful and rural compared to some of the more urban areas that I fish. Nature was all around that day, a sceen of geese “V ed” across the sky, Mistle Thrushes busied themselves in a nearby hedgerow. It seemed like it was a day for the hunter, a piercing whistle announced the arrival of the kingfisher and a sparrow hawk ghosted along the towpath - silent death. 

The atmosphere was electric, it was one of those days you just knew something would happen and happen it did as one of the floats moved against the wind ruffled water and disappeared from view the resulting strike met with nothing and dejected I sat back down. It had been my first “run” in sometime and I had missed it, however I knew as with all angling that there would always be another chance.

The low winter sun dipped towards the west turning the dead rushes a fiery gold and the sky turned red with the promise of a “Sheppard’s delight” for the coming morning. 

As the shadows lengthened I began to tidy my tackle away as usual leaving my rods to last. One rod had been wound in when I noticed the float nearest to me lift slowly out of the water and tip flat before slowly trundling off. I crept over to the rod keeping low as any sudden movements could alert the pike to my presence causing it to drop the bait. The strike was met with solid resistance followed by some violent headshakes, the pike moved fast towards me and in the clear water I could see her dark frame. As the pike came along side it opened its cavernous mouth again shaking its head, I could see she was a good fish, but noting that she was barely hooked. I then did something stupid and tried to net her too quickly forcing up the net when she was half in and out. CRACK! The net handle splintered and she surged away, I now resigned myself to the fact that I’d lost her. Lady luck must have shone down on me that day as I managed to bundle her into the net. Punching the air I knew I’d got a 20lber, 23Ib to be precise, she was as fat as a pig excreting evil smelling grey matter all over the mat. Like a dragon jealously guarding its treasure she had probably sat over that pre-bait all week devouring it. It was now dark and I quickly took some pictures of my prize. She was a lovely golden coloured pike and she seemed to glow in the cameras flash, the air was now cooling rapidly and my breath steamed, it was time to release the pike and get home for a welcome shower and hot brew. Piking is something that is in my blood and I live for these winter days chasing Esox against the backdrop of an English winter.

Tight Lines one and all and be lucky.

Danny Taylor

Monday, 16 April 2012

Brace Yourself

Ross Watterson

I am going to share with you a recent venture of mine, which to me, involved hitting the highest of highs and sinking to the lowest of lows, all in a 24 hour period. Ultimately, one prevails over the other, but I will leave you to judge that for yourself.

A two hour drive through torrential rain and snow sees me and my brother Craig having to make new plans as we have just found out the water we intended to fish is severely flooded. A spur of the moment decision and a further two hours driving we have arrived at a huge mass of water and are ready to tackle her. I am going to let you into a little secret of mine, although I am sure many of you have dabbled with it in the past. Prebait, groundbait, call-it-what-you-like-bait. For me and my fishing partners, on more than one occasion, we have had some of our best weekends fishing results whilst the swim has been littered with fish guts, oils, groundbait mix, hempseed and all sorts of fishy arrangements.

So with six rods cast out into the swim on first arrival, Craigo sets about making up the groundbait mix. We have tried doing this in several different ways, but the way it was made this time was by using mashed up fish (old dead baits and cheap sardines), a bag of groundbait mix. A tin of hempseed was added to hopefully attract the masses of perch shoals on this particular water. All of these ingredients were well mixed together to form a paste, then compressed into tight balls around the size of a tennis ball. With twenty or so of these thrown from the left side of the swim to the far right side of the swim, it was time to get the kettle on.

An hour passes and my right hand rod has a run, resulting in a 14.08 fish, a very short specimen, but fat as you like, with vivid markings. A good start. One hour later, as a strong westerly wind begins to pick up pace, my mackerel baited rod on the left side of the swim screams off to indicate a flying run. Picking up the rod and feathering line from the open bail arm, I click it over, tighten up and strike. All hell breaks loose as the rod is bent double with line pouring from the clutch. After taking what must have been twenty yards or so, I start to gain line back, inch by inch, with the fish travelling to the right side of the swim. After another powerful run, once again successful in turning her, she was within twenty yards of the waiting net. What happened next I will never forget so long as I live. The solid lump on the end of the line makes a run for it, full body exiting the water with a thrash of her massive head, and again, she does the same. This time she was successful in shaking the hooks free. The silence was sickening. Head in hands I slump to the ground, devastated. Craigo breaks the silence by urging me to get the bait back out there and settle the score. With the wind well and truly knocked from my sail, I rebait another half mackerel and trudge back off to the bivvy.

A very eerie hour passes with not a lot of conversation; until my right hand rod registers some action, with the swinger dropping back an inch. By this time the wind has died down drastically, in lifting the rod I feel there is something taking an interest in the trout bait. There was nothing spectacular about the fight, thankfully she behaved well and I breathed a sigh of relief to watch a nice double slip over the cord of the net. Weighing 17.12, she definitely lifted my spirits and I just about managed to crack a smile.
Two O'clock arrives, with the strong westerly still in tow and we were discussing how this should be breaking up the balls of groundbait just nicely.

 Fifteen minutes later and my left hand rod, which I had lost the fish on earlier, tears off to the over exaggerated sound of a delkim. I must admit, I was slightly nervous, the vivid memory of the lost fish still fresh in my mind. Striking into the run was intense, again a full curve was taken on as mass of weight decided it was time to move. Heart pounding, I gained line back gradually, with the fish a mere 20 yards from my anxious self and a huge boil on the surface soon appeared. I was not going to lose this fish. At that point, my receiver went off and a quick check told me I had a run on the far right rod. Craigo hurried down and struck into it, to find it had been missed......good !. I was relieved as my fish was edging closer and closer. I would be lying if I said I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her sink over the cord, I was ecstatic. She was a good 'un! I decided to unhook her in the net as she was lightly hooked. Just as the second treble was removed from the scissors, my far left hand rod, just a few yards away screamed off with a run. Craigo sets the net up in the water with a couple of bank sticks, then makes up the spare net to come over and see me hooked into another lump of a fish. My legs turn to jelly as she inches closer to the net. After what felt like an eternity, but was no more than a couple of minutes, I burst into pure emotion. "YES! Craigo, that’s a brace of ferkin twenties", as another specimen slipped into the net !.

I was overwhelmed to say the least and took a couple of seconds before taking the fish to the mat to be  unhooked. This fish was obviously smaller than the one waiting in the net, and we weighed her before setting her in the net next to her big sister. 22.09 she weighed. Taking the first capture of the brace from the net, I proceeded to weigh her, and you couldn't have seen a happier person when the scales zipped round and settled at 24.10lbs. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Now, while doing the photos, you may notice the brown substance down my left trouser leg, and although I will forgive you for mistaking this for something else, this is in fact the groundbait, which both fish were evidently feeding on, given away by the hemp seeds which were part of the mix.

 An outstanding result and another reason for being confident that our groundbait technique was effective.

The next couple of hours were spent reminiscing of the good fortune that had come our way; until Craigo pointed out that he was yet to register a run. Now Craigo has been fishing with me as long as I've been fishing, and although I've had some excellent results, Craig has yet to register his first twenty, and I had to reassure him several times that afternoon that his time will come.

As we progress from daylight to darkness, a flurry of snow is making its presence felt, until everything around us has been blanketed in a white sheet. With the sky turning clear the view is stunning, but the scenery soon takes a back seat as the sound of my brother's alarm has us on our feet in no time. After a short tussle a plump fourteen pounder is unhooked and released. This puts a smile on Craig’s face and he regains a bit of confidence after being Gillie for a day!

We were discussing how he always seems to get the night time fish, when no more than fifteen minutes after returning the fourteen, his middle rod lets rip with an unstoppable run. I take the net as Craig lifts his rod and strikes into the darkness. With the headlight on the rod, I see it’s got a healthy bend in it as Craig battles to get some line back. A few minutes pass as the fish is now within fifteen yards of the net and she makes a couple of slow yet powerful runs as she enters the shallows. With the torch light shining on her long flank, she reluctantly drops to the right side of the net. As I bring the net in and get a good look at her, I hold my hand out to my nervous, smiling brother. "Congrats on your first twenty bud." His face is glowing as he tells me not to get carried away. Unhooked and placed into the sling it was the moment of truth. Eight ounces over the magic mark and to see the sheer delight on someones face is heart warming. Although, from the photo you would think he was more shocked than anything else!

This was our red letter day, two fourteens, a seventeen, a brace of twenties and a new twenty pb, all within a 13 hour window. The thought of what was lost early on in the session was put firmly to the back of my mind as we toasted the latest success.

While on the phone to a good mate, to tell him of the new pbs, my right hand rod, just a couple of yards from where we were stood let out a single beep, shortly followed by the bobbin falling off and line slowly trickling from the open bail arm. On picking up the rod, I feel for some movement before clicking over and winding down. Striking into this fish was something else, as the rod arched back, it was literally pulled back twice as hard, taking me very much by surprise. With the fish around 50 yards out in the pitch black, the slight ripple on the water came to life as I felt a violent head shake followed by the thrashing on the surface as she leapt clear. At this moment, de-ja-va struck as she went for a second tail walk, resulting in the same scenario just hours earlier. All was slack. The same feeling of anguish draped over me as had done before.

Morning was soon upon us both and we felt no need to hang around, all the gear was packed up and we began the journey home. Unlike most sessions, when we try to squeeze in that extra hour or two here and there, we felt content in leaving, knowing what we achieved which  by our standards was exceptional and would stay with us for as long as we are able to remember.

I wrote this piece to hopefully give some inspiration to one or two of you reading this. I am not a known angler, or a big fish angler, just your average Joe Blogs with a fascination, determination and a burning passion to catch that next pike, whatever size it may be slip over the cord and into the net.

The day I don't smile when this happens, will be the day I hang up the rods.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Northern Soul - Pete Foster

Hello Pete, thanks for talking to the Pool, can you tell the Pool Siders a little bit about yourself?

Pete: I'm 46, live in Sheffield, married with one son, a Border Terrier and I sell bearings and other engineering products for a crust. When I'm not fishing, I love reading (mostly about WW2 not fishing), or anything to do with History or archaeology. I also enjoy working my Terrier Jaz as often as I can.

MH How long have you fished? And when did you first fish for Pike?

Pete: I have fished non-stop since I was 7 years old only slowing briefly once I discovered why girls have lumps and bumps and that beer made you feel happy. As a kid I could only fish what was local to me, which meant a stream containing little Brownies and an old Mill pond for Roach, Perch and the odd Tench. I never ventured further afield except on special occasions a couple of times a year with an Uncle who also fished. After passing my driving test there was no stopping me. Pike were always just a dream and they were the fish I most wanted to catch more than any other. I caught my first Pike in 1985 from Dam Flask on a live Perch fished under a bung, it weighed 8.08lb.
MH You’re a family man, how often do you fish?
Pete: I feel guilty typing this. In the Pike season (October to March for me) I will fish every Saturday and Sunday plus a couple of after work sessions per week. During the rest of the year, I will be fishing Friday night till Sunday dinner time but only the odd mid-week session. Oh, holidays too. In my defence, I have been the same since I met my wife and she expects nothing less. It is a selfish pastime when you take it seriously.

MH Who is your ideal boat partner? This could be a mate, a hero, crumpet or all three.

Pete: Andy Gregg, because he will cry if I said someone else (and he can be a right miserable git), Bernard Venables was my childhood hero so that's easy, but give me Anna Friel in a camo thong and I'd chuck the other two overboard.

MH Many of us have seen your impressive photos of big Carp/Tench/Bream etc. on the forums. Are you a Piker first & foremost or do you consider yourself an all-rounder?
Pete: I have always described myself as a Piker who fishes for other species in the Spring and Summer. I suppose that makes me an all-rounder but Pike are my favourite fish when I can target them at a size that interests me. I would rather catch a 4lb Perch than a 15lb Pike if you know what I mean? Some will possibly conceive that as elitist but that's just how I am, I need to be focussed with a target to aim for. I think this is why I have fished so many hard waters over the years, costing myself loads of 20's I could have been catching elsewhere in the process, sometimes it paid off, sometimes it didn't.

MH What is your favourite fish other than Pike?

Pete: I don't think I have one really? If they are big and interesting to fish for, then I will enjoy it. I love my Carp fishing though, I find them a challenge on the type of waters I have targeted them on. You can't just turn up, stick on a dead fish and hurl it out, it takes a lot of thought and skill to do it with any degree of success. Barbel bore me rigid, thick as two short planks.

MH You’ve mentioned Perch, do you fish for any other predators?

Pete: It's Perch from when I stop Piking till they spawn. Cat's on and off during the Summer as it takes my fancy and the odd trip for Zander in the Fen's or on the Trent now they are getting larger.

MH Do you think targeting a variety of species through the year helps your Pike fishing? For example does that Carp fishing ‘mentality’ help when fishing for Pike on the hard waters you mention?

Pete: At the start of every Pike season I am up for it and ready for a change, and when March comes around I can't wait to cut the traces off and fish for something other than Pike. A change is as good as a rest, eh? In that way I think it helps to stop me going stale and Oct 1st becomes my June 16th of old. I think my Pike fishing 'mentality' helps me to fish the harder Carp waters, because I am more prepared to fish a protracted campaign after a big Pike than a Carp. By a hard water, I mean getting one run in two Winters, then four fish in the third Winter. I can't explain it, but I do enjoy this type of water.

MH I really get the hard water thing but one run in two winters? I don’t think I’ve ever fished anywhere that hard!. I get the impression you’re a travelling angler, on average, how far do you travel for a days fishing?

Pete: The furthest has got to be Chew, 396 miles there and back for a single days Piking. Most of my Cambridge and Norfolk Piking in the Fen's is over 120 miles away. I class anything under 50 miles as local. Most of my other fishing is what I would class as local, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire and only very rarely, Yorkshire. It's hard work as you get older and even harder on the pocket these days.

MH What is your favourite type of water?

Pete: Again, none really. As long as the surroundings are nice and I'm not fishing shoulder to shoulder then I'm happy. I do love the big long established Gravel pits I like to fish, but no more than the tiny Fenland Drains I'm equally happy on. I would also add, I do operate better on dry land than I do afloat even though I own a boat, I only
like to use it when I feel I need to.

MH Do you have a favourite method?

Pete: For me it's all about the bite, or in our case the run and the best way to enjoy that in Piking is to watch the float shooting along the surface of the water, be it Pit, Drain or River. So I would say it has to be float fished dead-baiting. I can tell you my least favourite method is using lures, I know how effective it can be in the right
hands and I have had some big fish myself on the method. Pike to 33.08lb from Gravel pits and fish over 25lb from Fenland drains are not to be sneezed at.

MH Are there any waters (or types of water) you haven’t yet fished?
Pete: I've never been to Scotland so Scottish lochs are one for a start, but I have fished in Eire. Apart from that, I think it's only the Broads where I'm yet to venture in anger. I don't like dabbling, if I'm going to do it, I like to do it properly and put some serious effort in. Jay off the forum has offered to take me next season for a day or two, so I hope to wet my first line on the Broads somewhere then.
MH Is there a period of your Piking life that you enjoyed most? A particular water that was on song or a run of good luck?

Pete: I suppose it was right at the beginning of my Pike fishing in the late 80's when I was fishing Dam Flask on the outskirts of Sheffield, a 100 acre Reservoir that was full of massive yet un-caught Pike. I never realised at the time just how good it was, I was still very green and naive. If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I would take it apart. I still managed my first 30 from there and other big fish, but I should have done so much better than I did, hindsight eh? Years later I had a purple patch taking four braces of 20's, a30 and a load of other big Pike from a Drain that was nice.

MH Do you think fishing like that is a thing of the past or are you hopeful that you’ll find fishing like that again?

Pete: I really do hope so and I am forever trying to find the next 'mega' water. I try to be pragmatic about it and take each Winter has it comes. As I have hinted, I'm quite prepared to do a seasons fishing for one fish. Small pockets of big fish are out there to be found and can turn up in the most unexpected of places. A mate of mine found such a place this Winter and has had 12 x 20's from a waterway most think is dead. I found out about it and have respected his privacy and left him to it even though I could have muscled in and joined the action. Good luck to him I say.

MH What’s your take on Chew and the whole trout water scene?

Pete: Holiday Piking, grab it with both hands while you can but don't take it too seriously. Chew is a massive leveller, it don’t matter if you are Joe Bloggs or Eddie Turner, you still have the same chance to catch the fish of a lifetime or a multiple bag of big Pike. It does make Neville’s list obsolete in my eyes though. You could have only started Piking five years ago and have only ever fished Chew with the result being 8 x 30's backed up with 50 x 20's and a 40. See what I mean?

MH Does a pike from Chew hold as much value to you as a Pike from a river, pit, drain etc. ?

Pete: In a word, no. Or is it just because I've never had a Trout water 30???

MH What are your thoughts on the Pike fishing scene in 2012? Optimistic or pessimistic?

Pete: Both, the Trout water scene has its highs and lows as each water peaks and troughs and Chew is Chew. We have the PAC steering the ship and fighting our corner getting the message across. More and more waters are starting to see Pike as an asset instead of vermin who need destroying and are implementing measures to protect them. This can only be a good thing.

On the other hand, I see the problem of EE's systematically raping waterways such as the Fen's as something we as anglers, not just Pikers need to join forces against and deal with the issue in a correct manner.

MH With that in mind, what are your thoughts on the Angling Trust?
Pete: I think it can only be a positive, anybody or anything fighting anglings corner is a good thing. A united strong voice will be harder to ignore than a single one. Apart from our EE friends, we still have Cormorants, Otters, pollution and organisations such as English Nature to contend with. These issues have to be handled by people who have the skills to do so in the correct manner.

MH And finally Pete ..... Describe your perfect days fishing........

Pete: For me I thInk it would have to take place on a Fenland Drain. Late Feb with a frosty start giving way to a bright and brezzy day with winds from the South West. The pike have packed the prey into an area about 100 yards long and are striking as the sun starts to rise. Four rods are spaced out with a mixture of live and dead baits being offered. Action is instant with runs coming thick and fast to all rods, with all the pike landed being over 10 lbs. Feeding lasts all day without let up and a couple of fish have made it over 20lb. Finally with one of my last baits left and put back out the float moves of again and I strike into a massive fish, a dream pike !

That's when I wake up before the chance to land and weigh it !.  I have come close to something like this a couple of times and realised it once. 
Thanks a lot Pete, I’ve enjoyed asking the questions and I’m sure Pool Siders will enjoy this insight into a hardworking, dedicated Piker.

All the best

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Goths & Punks

Simon Farrow

After seeing and reading the 'Pike Pool articles', I felt it was about time I wrote something, so lets hope this gets your approval!

Quite a few years ago, more than I care to remember, in the late 80's. I was up working in Norwich. Whilst driving along Riverside Road, which is frequented by match anglers. I clocked a couple of guys whom were my own age, that didn't quite look the 'match type', more the 'Johnny Rotten type' with their weird hair styles. So I decided to stop and go and have a talk with them, ‘Goth to Punk’. So me being me, I asked how they were doing and if they had any spare bait that they would be willing to donate to a worthy cause. Me!

I got a rummun look, then a wry grin, but a really good friendship was sparked up for a fair few years after this meeting and a few baits spared on that day.

From this day, Keith, Eddie and my piking partner Mark and I spent a lot of time piking on gravel pits and estate lakes in the 'Punks' area. Keith’s knowledge was a real eye opener to Mark and me, and we duly refined our pike fishing ways and we never looked back.

New waters were kindly shown to us and good fishing was to be found on most of them. Reputations were also gained, but that’s another story.One such water nearby, which was un-fished as it had both 'NNT' signs and 'No Fishing' signs around it, looked so, so pikey, but as we had fishing avaliable to us on other places, it got put on the old 'must do' list and forgotten about for a few years, but I do regret not trying it out at the time.

A few years later, an angling society managed to obtain the rights for limited angling and as I was a friend’s with Mark, who was a member of the society, we just had to get there before it became common knowledge.Swims were very limited and half of it was a complete no go area. The approach needed to be fairly low profile, as the bailiff, though elderly, he certainly knew what was what, being an angler himself but not a piker.

I risked wriggling fish a few times on it and had a bit of fun one morning when the bailiff came and did his walk around which normally did not pose a problem, but that particular morning he decided to have a long, long chat about his fishing trip a week before. In the corner of my eye the patty rod tip was knocking like a good-un and I was just waiting for the Optonic (Old skool alarm) to say 'hello'.

Soon after, with the bailiff still chatting away...'You got a take' he says to me and that put me in a quandary. I could hardly leave the run, but at the same time, I couldn’t land a fish with no teeth! So I picked up the rod off its rests, tightened down and then told him it was a dropped take. I proceeded to put the rod back, connected the drop off and blindsided him whilst switching off the alarm. If he heard another bleep I would have never got rid of him! Off he trundled and alarm was powered back up and the alarm stayed quiet all day which did surprise me. I really did think that a take would have come from the upset 'wriggler' but it was not.

Eventually things started dropping into place, live baits didn't really produce much which was surprising, but dead baits did do the job and a few nice fish were landed by Mark and I over the next couple of seasons, my best being 27lb.

This fish was a real peach, not a mark or blemish anywhere on her and I doubt she had visited the bank before.

That particular fish did reach a top weight of 29lb, but never got to the magic 30lb mark. Soon word had got out and the increased pressure soon took its hold on the pit as the years went on.

That season, lamprey was the new bait on the scene and the fish at the pit took a liking to them, but in the latter part of the season the pike disappeared and we had no real idea where they had gone. However, having all of the Broadland on our doorstep, we were spoilt for choice and we took it for granted. Working and sussing places out wasn't required as we had so much top quality water at our feet, so we moved on.

The next season was spent afloat getting to grips with the River Bure, but one Sunday curosity got the better of us and we decided to go back to the pit just to keep an eye in and try and find these back end fish. First light came when we got there; we picked our swims and set up with ledgered lamprey and mackerel. After a couple of hours, no fish bothered us; it was obvious that the pike had moved on, so we began the hunt again.

One swim, which we had never fished, well I say 'swim' but in fact it was on an area that cattle drank from, had low slung bows from the Alders. However, it was still possible to get four float fished baits out. We both decided to move in and give it a try. We had to cast underarm to avoid the Alders and get the baits into the clear areas between the weed beds.

Action came pretty much straight away for us both, and we had quite a few jacks and doubles. It was quite hectic fishing and we were both glad we were in the same swim as we could help each other out with takes, unhooking and weighing while watching the other floats. Just as I was about to unhook my 17lb fish, my other rod was away so Mark took charge of unhooking the 17lber as I played a stubborn fish. As this was a small arm of the pit, we didn't really have much room to do a lot, as it was quite shallow, so she came in fairly quickly and once in the net I knew the 20lb barrier had been breached at last. We had found their hideaway area. 

At 21lb 6oz, this fish was again unmarked, infact all fish from there were clean and tidy, something that nowadays you are lucky to see.
Runs tailed off afterwards and we were glad of the rest, as the last three hours had been hectic. So we then had time for a brew and we were able to reflect on the morning’s activity which had resulted in nearly twenty fish n total between us.

As we sat there we then wondered what to do with the rest of the day as we felt we had fished the cattle drink dry. All other swims were deep and probably devoid of pike, so maybe a proper move was in order? We mulled over the places closest to where we were, some we had fished with the 'punks' and some we hadn't, others Mark had and others I had.

Decisions, decisions, that’s what it was like in the 80's in Norfolk before the carp fishing came into the equation. We opted for a pit nearer which was larger than the NNT one, but still not huge. Mark had fished it once or twice before and it felt it was worth a go as he had caught a couple of doubles from it, so off we went.

This was a ticket water, which had no real bailiffing being done on it and over the years I carried on fishing it with no gold passing hands. We got to this place within twenty minutes and we went round to an area which was hardly fished, as the grass was un-trampled and it had no evidence of foot marks, compared to other swims.

We changed the rigs on our rods to a ledger with alarms so we could relax for the rest of the day and take in what we had achieved. I say “we” as when fishing with Mark, we always considered whatever came to us was a 'team' result ', whether it be from bank or boat it was a combined effort in our eyes.

Baits soon went out and we sat back enjoying the rest of the day that was left. The silence was once again interrupted by the bleeping of an Optonic, and on looking down my right hand rod had line peeling from the open bail arm. I ran down the small hillock and wound down to a solid resistance. It had a different feel to the resistance felt on the shallow venues, as this time we were in 15 foot' of water, so the fight was a bit more like it should be. Not spectacular, as I don't find stillwater fish very energetic, but compared to proper river fish which are my favourite.

Anyway, it was certainly no jack, but once in the net I then realised what I had actually achieved or hoped I had. It was again, a really clean, well proportioned fish that took the scales to 22lb 8oz. After a couple of pictures she was sent on her way back to her home.I was well chuffed with our result, and then a short while later I realised what we had done. Two immaculate 20lb+ fish from two waters in one day, I could not have shared it with anyone better than with a close friend.

I very much doubt that I will ever achieve this feat again. They were not massive fish by some standards, but that day left me with a notable memory I'll never forget.

As for the two 'Punks', Keith moved away to London with his girlfriend and as this was before 'mobile' phones, we lost contact with him, but maybe one day he may join the forum, if he still fishes for them.
Eddie, I have no idea about at all which is a shame and Mark he still lives nearby and is still a bloody good Piker.

Happy Memories

Simon Farrow