Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Grumpy Old Man

Michael Hastings

OK Pool siders, now for something a little bit different from the norm. The closed season is here and a lot of us will have put our Pike rods to one side for a bit and need something else to occupy our minds. So, if Mr Rob is willing and you have five minutes of your lives to spare I’m going to have a bit of a moan. There are a few things about the piking scene and fishing in general which get up my nose so please hear me out.

A few years ago I was moved to write a ‘Predatorial’ which James Holgate published in P&P. I suppose some of what I‘m going to write to begin with will repeat what I wrote back then so I apologise…even though there are other writers who regularly churn out the same old stuff over and over again… Anyway, my little article was‘inspired’ by the “Wolverhampton Wanderer” selfishly splashing the name of a certain fen drain in the press, the subsequent battering and decline of this water and its Pike is well documented. Most of us who have been pike fishing for any length of time will find this a familiar scenario.

March 2012, Paul Garner, a high profile and highly successful Pike angler writes in Angling times, describing his capture of a big river Pike. I met Paul once and he seemed to be a very decent bloke, he’s obviously a good angler who’s deservedly caught a cracking fish so why does he have to go and spoil it all by telling the entire AT readership and their mates where he caught it? Two good friends of mine were regular visitors to this particular water but regular promotion in the press by the likes of Martin Bowler to name but one, has seen such a rise in anglers on the banks they’ve sadly left the place alone for pastures new. (In the interests of balance it’s only fair to big up Martin Bowler for having the balls to highlight the otter problem in a recent AT. More on that in a bit…)

Yes there are exceptions, that large West Country trout water for example and naming any of the trout reservoirs is not going to tell many Pikers anything they didn’t already know but it can have a short term effect and make the next weekend noticeably busier, boats will be harder to book all of a sudden. Chew on that! General locations such as “fenlands” or“Norfolk Broads” are acceptable but when it gets more specific, as in a recent series of articles in Pikelines for example, it can and will cause problems. Even naming a private fishery may bring it to the attention of potential poachers. When the slaughter of Pike by a certain Stuart Wilson was brought to light recently it gave a whole new reason not to name waters!

This subject came up on “The Pit” towards the end of last season and those of us arguing that waters should not be named were described as selfish by some of the more naïve members who I would guess haven’t been in the game too long. I’d ask what is more selfish? Keeping your mouth shut and allowing the Pike to live in relative peace or grabbing your fifteen minutes of fame in the press and watching those poor Pike get pressured and battered??

As you may have gathered naming waters is a bug bear of mine but I have to confess I’ve been guilty of it myself in the past. Back in 1997 I was fortunate to catch a very big Pike which features in Neville’s “Mammoth Pike”. At the time only three other Pikers knew where I’d caught this fish and this was the way it stayed for over three years. I did put a picture in‘Pikelines’ and this led to all sorts of questions and accusations. Eventually the gravel pit in question was bought by one of the bait trade’s less likeable characters and at that time I worked for him in another business. It became mutually beneficial for me to come clean and name the water. Yes, I sold out for the cash and I have regretted it ever since but the writing had already been on the wall and the water would have been advertised anyway. The local tackle shop’s self-appointed Pike expert was particularly unimpressed and told everyone who would listen, including my mate Rich who’d taken the photographs, that I had in fact caught that fish somewhere else. Another unfortunate side effect of naming a water.

This brings me to another thing that gives me the hump and that’s commercial Pike fisheries, not that there are too many around as they just don’t last do they? This pit was initially visited and promoted by Mick Brown, who was an absolute gentleman and also, a couple of weeks later the Wolverhampton wanderer, who wasn’t. I was a part time ‘bailiff’ at the time but when I tried to enforce the fishery rules (based on PAC code of conduct) I had no support at all from the owner who was far more interested in pounds than Pike, The result was litter strewn banks, baited traces hanging from trees and battered Pike. The owner’s naïve response was “we’ll get more Pike”
This was the 2000/01 season which many will remember was curtailed by the ‘foot & mouth’ outbreak. Many waters across the country were closed but this day ticket fishery was not. Apparently this was a really good “business opportunity”. In late February and March, throughout the spawning period this 20 acre pit, which had already been hammered throughout the winter, was being fished by up to 30 Pike anglers per day at weekends. There were casualties, I saw them and the following season was a dead loss as far as the Pike fishing was concerned. The Pike fishery we local anglers had known was gone forever. Nowadays the pit has changed management and is successfully run as a big Carp fishery which does hold some good Pike once again but is no longer promoted as a Pike fishery.

The Angling weeklies do my head in too and not just because they publish the names of Pike waters. I hate the way the way it’s written, all dumbed down, they talk to the reader as if he/she/we are retarded. Then there’s the terminology; when did they begin to refer to fish as a “sample”? I sample food or drink, not the fish I catch! Perhaps that’s why some immigrant communities eat the fish?? (No I’m not serious). How many Pike does one have to catch to be labelled a “Predator Ace”? Approximately one judging by the evidence in the mags. Let’s be brutally honest, take away the news section and the match reports the rest is pretty much a series of advertorials. The only brands that get mentioned are those that pay for advertising (check, you’ll see I’m right) and no one ever gets a bad review!

Some of the monthlies aren’t much better. What really bugs me are the oh so obviously staged photographs. You know the ones, a fish being drawn over the waiting landing net held by an angler grinning like a wanking chimp. The photographer must be actually in the water to take this shot (yes I’d make a great detective) but how long have they been twatting about with the fish to capture that image? It may not quite be a fake but it’s the nearest thing to it. Then there’s the cover shots with a fish in the bottom of the frame and a big cheesy grin above it. I’m not sure why these irritate me so much, perhaps it’s because there’s a picture like this on three or four different mags at the moment? Another is the one where the angler is laying on his belly with a load of fish spread over the ground/net/mat in front of him. I know we shouldn’t get too precious about the slimy fishy things but those photos can’t be good for the fish can they?

That leads me to product placement, this is the ultimate crime for an angling writer in my opinion. There was an article by Tony Miles in P&P several years ago which was nothing but one long advert with plugs for everything from tackle to clothing shoe horned in. I’m surprised James published that one, he must have been short of material that month. I know I’m naïve because product placement creeps into the majority of fishing writing these days. No offence to Neville but P&P has been more guilty of this since James’ passing and if you think about it, this indirectly led to the formation of the “Pikers Pit” and indeed the “Pike Pool”.Product placement even crept into a recent Pikelines where whilst reviewing one rod (made by Harrison) Jon Neafcy managed to plug the completely different rods made by his sponsor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an angler recommending a good piece of kit to another (ET’s Sladle is an absolute must for the lone boat angler) but the unashamed plugging of the latest gimmick? No! Leave it out!!

Fishing guides are another contentious issue and I don’t want to get into the pros and cons of that one too much right here. My own attitude has been, if I was on holiday abroad or on the other side of the country I’d consider using a guide, however using one on a water I am able to visit and fish regularly would feel like cheating. The good old Angling Times had me grinding my teeth again last week (late March 2012). Angling guide Gordy Howes, who I believe is based in the east of the country was describing a successful visit to a water out west. The bit that got my goat was, and I quote; “I have opened up another water for my clients…” What a bloody selfish attitude, has Gordy considered the impact on the local anglers already fishing the place? Does he care about these people or is it all about the coin? Guide on your own local patch if you really have to but travelling across the country to add to the pressure in another area can’t be right can it?

Up until about five years ago I’d never seen a wild otter in England but since then I see them on a regular basis. A decade ago the Tench fishing local to me was excellent, nowadays they’re becoming rare. Much better anglers than me are struggling to catch them and otters are being blamed. The evidence is mounting and I think it’s now an undisputable fact that otters are a massive threat to the future of our sport yet there are people who are still in denial of this fact! Yes Eastern European immigrants are causing problems in some parts of our country but this is something that can be dealt with through law enforcement and education. Yes it’s difficult but it’s not impossible and recent initiatives could see the light at the end of that particular tunnel. The otter problem is different entirely as both the law and public opinion are not on our side. Anglers need to stand together and get behind the Predation Action Group and the Angling Trust.

Which brings me to my final moan and that is all the Pike anglers out there who are happy to complain about Pike killers, Otters, EE’s, silly rules, Noddy anglers etc. but won’t dip into their oh so deep pockets and pay a little over £20 to join PAC (and/or PAAS). OK it’s a free country, people are not obliged to join but when the subject crops up on “the Pit” there are always a few that feel obliged to come up with some spurious excuse; “I don’t like what the committee done back in 1992…” Get over it! Times change and where would we all be right now in 2012 without PAC??? Many of us wouldn’t be Pike fishing that’s for sure. Get your wallets out you selfish gits!
OK, that’s my moan over for now and if I’ve offended anyone…well I’m not sorry because offense is relative (but that’s a whole different subject…). However, if you disagree then by all means get writing or typing and send your response to the editor and explain why I’m wrong. 1000 to 2000 words with a few photos should do very nicely thank you.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Dream Fishing

Steve Williams

A cold shudder of fear spread over me, sweat beads started to form on my forehead, my palms went clammy and I started to feel a bit sick.Why? Because I'd just opened up a PM on the Pikers Pit, and it was from Rob, asking me if I'd be willing to write something for the Pikers Pool.... 

The problem is, I'm not a full time Piker, so I don't feel qualified enough to attempting to write a 'Pike' article.Don't get me wrong though, I love my Pike fishing, and have a real 'thing' for Zander too. Perch also figure in my thoughts, but none of these figure any more than say Barbel, Roach, Eels or Chub. For me, almost every species has a place in my plans at some point throughout the season, depending on the time of year, weather, my mood, or even a tip off or snippet of info from a mate.

I still class myself as an all-rounder, with the exception of Carp.I'm not 'anti' Carp by any means, and I do have a few Summer evenings on some of my local club waters targeting them with bread fished under a piece of quill, on a Barbel rod and centerpin reel, but they just don't get under my skin like most other species. I rarely fish the circuit waters, preferring to challenge myself on local venues, so my PB list, although not anything by nationall standards is something I'm pretty pleased with, and more to the point, still leaves me some challenges to increase my biggest fsh of the different species.

There is, for me, something special about catching a 'big' fish from a local water.They may be small on a national scale, but I get a real buzz from catching say a 2lb Roach or a 5lb Chub from my local river Severn. I've lived in Bridgnorth, Shropshire for almost 20 years now. I brought my first house with my then, soon to be wife, Joanne, back in 1994, and immediately began scouring the local Ordnance Survey maps for waters, as you do.There were quite a few within a 5 mile radius, but one particular chain of lakes caught my eye. I soon had Joanne and myself out on an enjoyable morning walk along the Severn and then up across these pools to take my first look at them. Stunning just doesn't do it justice. The first lake we came across was a 19 acre estate lake, with reed beds, lilies and snaggy margins and a beautiful ornate boathouse.On the way home, I stopped off at the local tackle shop to enquire about who controlled the water, only to be told that it was private.....

I was gutted, and it was not until two years later, while flicking through Angling Times, that I discovered the water was actually controlled by a local angling club, and the feature in the Angling Times was basically saying that if they didn't get more members, the club would probably fold. I did think at the time that no wonder they were in trouble if even the local tackle shop didn't know they controlled the water! I couldn't write a cheque out quick enough, and only a few days later I received my Kinver Freeliners Angling Club membership card. The water I'd first seen was the 'Big Pool' on the National Trusts Dudmaston Estate, and although it turned out its not the best Pike water around, it is a stunning Tench water, holding massive natural stocks of these hard fighting, stunningly beautiful fish. Within a year or two I found myself getting involved in the running of the club, serving first on the committee, then as vice Chairman, Chairman and now 15 years on, I'm secretary. The club control a number of other waters around the area, including Hampton Loade on the river Severn, made famous by Matt Hayes and his Total Fishing/Great Rod Race programs.

I soon found myself spending many session out after Barbel. Staring off on conventional methods, fishing a feeder with small pellets and a bigger one on a hair rig, catching lots of what we know as 'splashers', which are what we class as any Barbel below about 4 or 5lbs. To be honest, catching 'specimen's didn't really figure in my thoughts.Don't get me wrong, I caught a few 8 and 9lb Barbel, but they tended to be few are far between, and I always felt it was just a numbers game. The more we caught the more chance we'd have of catching something a bit bigger.

One thing that soon became apparent, mainly from all the visiting anglers we get coming to the Severn Valley to fish for Barbel, is that at times they can be very difficult to catch. These fish are some of the most pressured in the country, regardless of their size. It was obvious that the 'standard' feeder approach was fine when the fish were really having it, but if we were suffering low clear water conditions, coupled with bright sky's, the visiting anglers would soon start the moaning about there been no Barbel in the river. The problem is, most of them would be on the beer during the evening, then a curry, back to the digs and sleep it off, rise at the crack of 10 or 11am, breakfast then head out, at what was probably the worst time of the day to fish. They would then fish till 5 or 6 in the afternoon, pack up, moan about how crap the river is these days, and bugger off back to the pub. Now don't get me wrong, if your having a lads holiday, and the fishing is secondary, then that's fine, but don't blame the river, the conditions or the fish.....

Not long after moving to Bridgnorth, I had a day out with well known Barbel angler, Trevor West.Amongst the number of things Trev showed me, one method in particular changed my approach to Barbel fishing more than any other. Trevor's name is synonymous with 'rolling meat' for Barbel. I've found the easiest way to explain rolling meat to someone, it to liken it to trotting a waggler down the river, only without the float. The bait is cast well upstream, and a bow is allowed to form. This bow allows the bait to trundle downstream in a straight line. If you were to simply cast out and across, the flow would pull the bait off line and become totally unnatural to a fish. Now over the years I've adapted the method to suit me and my fishing. On the right day, I can out fish the static feeder method at around 5 or 6 fish to 1. The number of times I've met up with visiting anglers leaving the river of an evening, chatted to them and found out they've caught next to nothing, then I've had a couple of casts in front of them while they watch on, muttering about 'nutty' local yamyam fishermen, only to bag a Barbel first or second chuck. Its amazing how 'lucky' I am !! 

Ok lets get down to some essentials because to roll meat for Barbel successfully you need a few things. Chest Waders are essential. I prefer Breathable ones, as I'm normally out 'rolling meat' during the summer.Polarised shades are also useful, to spot 'flashing' Barbel or deeper runs and weed beds. A rod, obviously. I tend to use a 'Barbel' rod of around 1.75tc.
Fixed spool reel, loaded with 12lb clear mono. I prefer mono to braid for this method, as a lot of the swims I'm rolling baits through tend to be snaggy, rock or boulder strewn areas. Some bait will be required and the good old luncheon meat rules. I cut my meat into two slabs then into four, which leaves me 8 'fishfinger' type pieces. These are carried in a bait bag around my waist and I can tear off a piece the size I require. Obviously some forcepts are required for unhooking. Notice there is no mention of a landing net. As I'm in the river most of the time, and tend to play my fish very hard, so they are landed quickly, I rarely take a net with me, it just slows me down.

The hooks are different and i important, and the lead wire loaded onto them is the key to fishing this method. Originally they were available through Trevor's 'Double T' products, and distributed by Partridge's of Redditch, but sadly they are no longer available, so the lead wire has to be sourced from elsewhere. I'm lucky to have a good friend that is involved in the tackle trade and he's been able to source some lead wire that is used in the making of styl weights for pole fishermen. If you can not get hold of lead wire, don't be tempted to use solder, because it’s just not heavy enough.


In the past when I've been short of stock, I've used the centre out of leadcore leaders and also brought the fly tying lead for weighting fly's, but problem with the fly tying lead wire is its very thin and you do need to do a number of windings to create enough weight. Another alternative is heavy metal putty with shrink tubing over the top, but this tends to be a bit 'thick' on the shank of the hook and can split the meat. Ok, so lets look at the rig............

You need a large hook, something like a size 1 or 2 is ideal, so you can load it
with plenty of lead. I use a number of different patterns, depending on what's available at the time, but strong patterns like Nash Fang or Drennan Boilie hooks are good. I wrap the lead wire around the shank of the hook, starting at the eye and working down and sometimes around the bend.The amount of wire I use depends on the flow I'm going to be fishing in. More wire in faster flows, less in slow flows.I tend to make up several hooks, with differing amounts of wire on them, and carry then in a small box.

I then tie the mainline direct to the hook and that's it.... simples..... I don't use any weight on the line at all. The reason for this is that any weight, even plasticine acts as a snag point and although plasticine does pull off the line quite easily, the damage is already done and the rig will be snagged.

So come on, lets go on an evenings fishing......

Its summer, late July, and the river is low and clear. As I open the door to the local tackle shop, I see a couple of lads who, it turns out, are from Doncaster and down for a few days fishing and are in buying bait.After exchanging pleasantries we get down to the nitty gritty of the fishing. As predictable as a sunrise, it turns out they've struggled for the last two days.Its their last day tomorrow, and in desperation they are switching from an all out pellet attack, to hemp and Caster, a classic Severn tactic, but I cringe as they hand over £30 for one days bait. I simply couldn't afford to fish like that, but I suppose its desperate measures.

Carol behind the counter makes a comment that the lads should tap me up for some info and advice... I smile and wait for the inevitable barrage of questions.How/what/where.... they soon start to flow.I've got the rod set up in the back of the truck, so I pop out and fetch it.I love the look on their faces when I hold out a single hook with some wire wrapped around it....its priceless, and I'm not disappointed this time.The two lads glance at each other then I get the almost guaranteed 'F#%K OFF' expletive from them, as the start to comprehend what I'm saying. To be honest, I'm wasting my time. There isn't a chance that this pair will leave the fishing till 5 or 6pm and forgo the local hospitality of the many pubs and restaurants in Bridgnorth, I can but try tho.I wish them good luck for tomorrow, as I amble off to the bridge to see if a few of my favourite spots are available.

The Middle Severn is made up of a series of deeper slow flowing stretches, interspersed with fast broken shallows and it’s the change from deep slow to fast broken water that I find most reliable.The stretch I'm fishing this evening is about 1/2 mile long, and has four such areas, so each one will get around 30 -45 mins, which should be ample to see if there is a fish or two at home and willing to feed.The first spot I look at is taken. An angler sits lazily on his chair, rod tops pointing to the sky, eyes half shut. I've no need to disturb him, as I can tell from his body language that he's doing about as well as everyone else has today.

Next is the bridge pool, and it’s free. The main flow comes under the far arch, so I wade out across the shallows into waste deep water, with the water flowing from right to left. I'm looking to bounce the bait along in the flow, from 30+ yards above me, to almost the same distance below, depending on how open the banks are.I impale a piece of meat around 1 1/2 inches long onto the hook, carefully inserting the point first, then rolling the hook into the meat so as not to split it. Once the hook is in almost to the eye, I grip it tight and turn it about 1/4 of a turn, making sure the point doesn't protrude from the side of the meat, as experience tells me that this is a snaggy spot and anything I can do to aid the baits passage through the weed, rocks and general rubbish normally found in urban waters, the better.

The first cast is made right under the arch of the bridge.I hold the rod tip high and allow line to peal off the rim of the reel under controlled tension,watching the line where it enters the water, because I'll be able to tell as soon as the bait touches bottom. Sure enough after what feels like an age, the line suddenly starts to 'plink' and vibrate on the surface, so I shut the bail-arm and drop the rod down to the left, allowing a large bow of line to be pulled downstream.Gradually the line tightens and I'm now fishing effectively.

Holding the rod in my right hand and the line in my left, pointing slightly downstream so the line comes off the rod top at right angles, I can feel the bait tripping bottom, with the slightest of plucks transmitted up the mine and down the rod. The bait momentarily sticks behind a rock, before the slight increase in pressure on the line lifts the bait up and over it.

Suddenly I feel a jolt, like a bolt of lightning through both the line and rod top as a fish takes the bait. I immediately let go of the line in my left hand and start to wind like mad. I need to take the bow out of the line and get into direct contact with the fish.There is no need to strike. The fish, for the first few seconds doesn't even know its hooked, but as I start to compress the rod round into a satisfying bend, all hell breaks loose and the fish strips 10 or 15ft of line off a tight clutch.

One of the beauties of this method is that most fish are hooked upstream of your position, so bringing them through dense weed beds is easy. If I'd have hooked this one on a standard set up cast across and downstream, I'm sure I'd have been snagged by now.The pressure soon tells and the fish swings downstream, gaining speed all the time,I clamp down on the spool of the reel and haul the rod over hard left to pull the Barbel off course.It works, and I'm soon cranking the reel handle hard, pumping the fish back upstream towards me. She surfaces in a cascade of spray, and slaps her tail angrily on the surface in front of me, before diving towards the bottom again. Her strength is sapping tho, and I soon raise her to the surface again. She gulps a mouthful of air and I know that the battle is almost over. I slacken the clutch, as she glides towards me and I bend my knees slightly to allow me to reach down and grip her across the shoulders. 

I smile as I struggle to get my thumb and forefinger to reach across her back. She a good fish, probably 8lb, dark on the back, giving way to the distinctive bronze flank and pearl while belly.The hook is nicely inside the mouth, and I need the forceps off the shoulder strap of my chest waders to enable me to remove it. I hold her, still in the water while she gathers her strength back. Her gills are pumping and I can soon feel the strength returning to her body. She try's to kick away, but I want to keep her for just a little longer, not only for her to recover, but for me to admire her beauty for just a second more, then with a flick of her tail and a splash, she's gone. No need for another cast here. Not only will any fish left in the swim have being disturbed, but there are more swims I want to fish.

Next spot is at the end of the island, where the two flows join.I can wade across the shallow Bylet, and fish on the crease between the two flows. Despite several casts, covering the near side, middle and far bank, nothing takes the bait.Below on the gravel, I can spot a pile of angling related rubbish left where it was dropped, and I realise that someone has obviously been fishing the area and probably put the fish down.No problem, and I put a note in my head to pop back on the way back to the car and clear away the litter.

About a hundred yards further downstream there is a nice deep far side run. The water right out to almost 2/3 of the way across is only ankle deep at best, but it suddenly falls away and disappears under a run of overhanging bushes.Knowing this run is deep and fast, I change the hook for one with more lead on it. I load the new hook with bait and flick it out and across the flow, landing with a 'plop' close to the far bank. Again the rod top is held high and the line flicks off the rip of the spool. Suddenly the line fly's forward and I feel a violent pull on the rod top.Chub!!. I allow the bait to continue to sink until I feel the bait touch down and it starts to trip the bottom.Almost immediately it snags, and I dip the rod top to increase pressure on the rig to see if it will come free.Nothing. So I slowly wind the bow out of the line, bounding the rod top as I do, in an attempt to fee the hook from the snag. Its not until I'm almost in direct contact that it all comes free and I wind the rig in to check.There is a small crushed piece of meat left on the hook shank, which is a sure sign of a chub attack.

I re-load the hook and cast out again on the same line, but just a little further upstream.The rig makes it to the bottom without the unwanted attention of the resident Chub, and I start to fish the run. First trip through, the rig makes it all the way down without a touch, so with the bait still sitting nicely one the hook, I re cast, but this time I slowly edge my way sidewards downstream, increasing the length of the trot.After about 8 or 9 steps, just as I stumble over an unseen rock on the river bed, I feel the urgent tugging down the rod top that alerts me to the fact that something's picked the bait up.

I allow the bite to develop, making sure its not just a Chublet attacking the bait, but very soon the line tightens and starts to cut upstream. I start the frantic winding of the reel handle, and the rod once again arches over into its battle curve.This fish is much quicker, zigzagging in the flow as I bring it right in to my feet.I can see its a splasher of maybe a couple of pound, and up it comes, dorsal erect and defiant. The hook hold is just inside the top lip, so I'm able to grip the shank and twist. Off she goes in a shower of spray.

I edge a few yards to my left again, as I re-bait the hook, and re cast.This is a good long run, and I haven't even got to the main area of over hanging snaggy bushes that normally hold the bulk of the fish.Once again I flick the bait out and across the flow, landing just inches short of the brambles trailing in the water.Its not as deep here, probably 5 or 6ft, so the bait reaches bottom fairly quickly.It bounces maybe 4 or 5 ft, before once again I'm letting go of the line in my left hand and winding down to make contact with another fish.

The light is fading fast now, and while the Barbel hugs bottom in the flow, fighting both the power of the rod and the flow, I notice the first of the evenings bats are out and skimming the water.This one is certainly bigger than the last, but it doesn't seem to have the same power as the first fish, and after the initial run, where it takes me round in a 180 degree turn, so I'm now playing her on the shallow side of the run, I have her circling in front of me.It certainly did a good job of impersonating a big Barbel, but I can just make out the shape of a fish of around 5 or 6lbs.Once up on the surface, the Barbel gulps air and the battle is over.

She comes in belly up, and I stoop to collect her at my side.The hook is again embedded in the top lip, and with the help of the forceps again, its out and I hold her in the flow to recover.She slides out of my hand and comes to rest on the gravel right next to my feet.I watch her, holding station in the flow, pink corral pecks outstretched like wings on an aeroplane as she gradually slides across the gravel in front of me and disappears out of sight.

I walk back to the bank and climb onto the path.Probably an hour of daylight left, but I'm more than happy to continue into the dark if I so wish.Wading, if you don't know the water well, can be problematic, but so long as you take your time, everything should be ok.

The final run is a cracker, coming out from a deep pool and sweeping across to my bank before disappearing under the bypass bridge and off through the caravan site.I start to make my way down the bank, but suddenly I hear voices.My heart sinks as I see three lads sitting side by side on the bank.They spot me, so I feel obliged to speak.Their southern accent gave me a clue, as I enquire if they’re visiting for the fishing.

They are, and struggling.

They ask if it was me in the river upstream of them, and was that a Barbel they'd seen me land.I explain that it was, and it was my third this evening, in only a couple of hours fishing.
I show them the rig, and one lad, the younger of the three seem interested, so I go into a bit more detail.He's keen to give it a try, but as he had no waders with him, it was going to be a case of getting wet.

I open the hook box and hand him a couple of spare hooks, the two older lads start to take the piss, but I recon if he gives it a go tomorrow evening, he may well catch a few.He shakes my hand, and I tell him that I may well be down again tomorrow, so I'll look out for him.I leave them to it, and make the short walk back to the car, not forgetting to stop and collect the rubbish left on the gravel bank upstream.

I wasn't planning on fishing tomorrow, but I might just nip out for an hour or two..........

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

PAC General Secretary's Address - Alan Dudhill

                                                     PAC Web May 2012

Firstly, many thanks to all those who attended the AMM to give thanks to the outgoing committee and welcome in the new. Before I start to outline our many aspirations for the future of the club I’d like to extend my thanks and congratulations to Graham and the out-going committee for their dedication and individual contributions to the club during what has been very difficult and somewhat trying times. They have worked tirelessly behind the scenes and on many occasions, gone far beyond the call of duty in the interests of the club. You can rest assured that 12PAC will build on this progress and the club very much remains in safe hands.

12PAC is already in full swing

We have an advantage over previous committees in that some members are staying on for another term,
which has given us some continuity. Graham also ensured that we were involved in committee issues in
plenty of time prior to the handover, so we have not been thrown into our roles unprepared and are aware
of all the major issues affecting our sport at present and will be following all these issues up in due course.
12PAC is already in full swing and we’re going to make an impact.

We have an awesome team with a good mix of knowledge, experience and business acumen. All of which is essential if we are to progress the clubto where we think we should be. Most importantly, we are all motivated by our immense passion for theclub and will be working hard to preserve our sport in it’s entirety.

I’ll only be covering the basics here but I hope this gives all members an insight into 12PAC and what we’ll
be striving to achieve. We have a very capable team. Each member has been hand-picked for their
individual roles based on their relevant skills, knowledge & experience.

 Most importantly, we are honoured to serve our members and will work tirelessly for the club.

Challenging times lay ahead

Our sport is under constant threat. Before I cover our plans for the coming term and our way of doing
things, it’s important for us to look at some of the present threats to pike and our sport:

Other angling groups – Other angling disciplines often undermine us by restricting our sport, for example
where they implement a livebait ban. To them this may seem trivial but as far as I’m concerned a livebaitis
as natural a bait to us as a worm or maggot is to the matchman. This is the thin end of the wedge. Any restriction or ban sends out the wrong message and only acts to support those who would ban our sport altogether.

It’s worth bearing in mind here, that all angling disciplines often benefit from the hard work of our
members and for this reason, they should support us in what we do, not obstruct us.

Government Quangos - We are often left bewildered by the naive attitudes & responses of Government
Agencies and are faced with having to challenge these on a regular basis.Chris Bishop was instrumental in
uncovering the hidden agendas of Natural England, whose policies influence many other organisationsand
therefore effect us on a national scale. We are often in conflict with other agencies including the
Environment Agency, Broads Authority, and British Waterways, to name but a few.

Large Conservation Organisations – these are often linked to NE and are pressuring our sport on a
massive scale. We have long since been considered the guardians of the countryside & wildlife but in
recent times we are being pushed aside to watch from the side-lines as the very countryside we’ve
protected is being inappropriately re-developed. Often this decimation of our existing wildlife and
environment is hidden behind an inappropriate SSSI and carried out without appropriate consultation or
regard for local knowledge.

Other serious threats include; Eastern European fish theft, Prymnesium, Killer Shrimp, Cormorants, Otters,
Pollution, Systematic pike removal, senseless pike culls, etc, etc.

The list goes on and on but the common denominator is that our main opposition comes from large
organisations who, either cause these problems or continually fail to address them. These are usually well
organised, well funded and have massive member support. It’s also worth noting that many of these
organisations are the very same organisations who we entrust to preserve our environment and our sport.
Indeed, in some cases, angling funds their anti-angling policies. This in it’s self is a disgrace. It’s
sometimes difficult to be positive about these organisations but we should be mindful that they also do
some good.

12PAC is here to make a stand and get the PAC seen and heard

As a committee and club we have to stand our ground, while we’ve still got some ground left.
To do this we have to make our presence felt. Though we have proved over the years that we can make significant progress at local level, the only way to make real long-term progress is to address the policies of these organisations and that can only be done at the highest level.

If we are to challenge these organisations and have our voice heard, we have to be taken seriously. To
achieve this we have to be equally well organised and portray a professional image and shop-front. Our
shop front being the magazine, web presence and of course the Convention. All of which we intend to
bring bang up to date with professionally re-designed web site & forum and face-lift for the mag.  All with the backing of dedicated teams to ensure that these are also kept up to date and continually improved.

Dilip has already set the standard here with the introduction of Team Pikelines and our dynamic Online Team will be announced shortly. We will not be stopping there. Where we find the need to
set-up additional teams to support the work of the club, we will do it. We have many skills within our membership and to date, this has been a relatively un-tapped resource. The Committee is the driving force and will continue to steer the club in the right direction but we cannot do this without member support. We will be encouraging members to become more involved within their regions but also welcome anyone with specific skills to come forwardand support our committee work.

We’ve got to work in partnership with others

We strongly believe that the only way forward is for the PAC, as a whole to engage with other
organisations. All too often we have to bear the brunt of a decision, policy or rule introduced by another
organisation or club. After the event we rant & rave and appropriately have our say, but the horse has
already bolted. It therefore makes perfect sense that we try to become involved in these decisions. In some
cases we may even be able to eliminate a threat at inception. At the very least, we will be more aware of
potential problems and have an opportunity to have our say from the start. For this reason, we have to
accept that we need to work ‘with’ these organisations but only where appropriate. In some cases, where
there is a serious conflict of interest, we will not engage fully but even a restricted level of engagement
could serve as a source of vital information for the club. 12PAC will be therefore be placing a strong
emphasis on working with other organisations and groups as appropriate. Rest assured that we will not
however, compromise on our beliefs and will fight strongly to preserve our sport in its entirety. We will also
be fully prepared to take the hard-line approach when necessary.

We have allies and need to support those who share a common interest

Angling is by far the biggest participating sport in the UK but we are fragmented between numerous
different clubs and organisations. Considering that it only takes 10,000 signatures to have a matter raised
in Parliament, imagine what clout we would have if we could ever work together. The Angling Trust is the
latest in a long line of organisations designed to bring us all together to unite against our threats. Though I
have reservations about their worth to us as a single specimen group, we need to accept that we are a
minority group amongst anglers and we wont get everything our own way. Like it or not, they are the best
chance we have had for some time to get our voices heard and we will endeavour to work with them
wherever we can.

Scotland’s PAAS & LAIA are prime examples of like-minded groups and indeed many of their members are also highly regarded members of the PAC. These will appropriately receive our full support.

Modernisation is the key to increased membership

One of the most serious issues facing the club at the moment is membership numbers.
Members are by far our greatest asset, we can achieve nothing without their support. Though we still have
a healthy following, membership has decreased significantly over the last few years. Clearly the present
financial climate has a bearing here. This is an area, which leaves us vulnerable and we have already
started to address this issue. Our improved national profile and shop front is very much aimed at this, as is
our intention to engage with all anglers & angling groups. We quite frankly have no choice but to become
more attractive & receptive to new-comers. Some may argue that the more members we have the more
angling pressure and competition for pike. I disagree, these anglers will fish for pike anyway so lets get
them onboard and have them doing it properly and contributing to preserving our sport.

Businesses have to deal with the same economic climate to survive and we are no different. For this
reason, although we are a club, we have to be more business-like in our approach.Modernisation, Publicity
& Marketing is the key to this, and again the mag & web site will play a major role here. There are also
many other mediums available to us today; Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, News Feeds, Interactive Apps and
Forums and we will be using these to our full advantage and increasing our presence on a national basis.
We would encourage all members to embrace these technologies and get fully involved where you can in
promoting the club and what we do. This particularly applies to forums but when interacting on forums I’d
ask that you do this in a responsible manner. Those who seek to undermine angling often use abstracts
from these forums to support their anti-angling agendas. The Committee will also be fully engaging with
other forums. However, as committee members, what we say is often taken as official PAC policy and this
has caused particular problems in the past, so our engagement will rarely be direct interaction but more a
case of publishing statements and promotional articles and keeping these forums and fellow anglers fully
up to date via news feeds, etc. Also, neither of us have an unlimited amount of time so what we do have,
will be concentrated on routine matters and major issues. If pikers want to know more about the club or
want to directly interact with the committee, they can do this via our web site & forum.

Though we as a committee will be openly encouraging interaction with all anglers, groups and forums, we
are fully aware of the risks of us doing the same. Where there is a serious conflict of interest, we will not
engage on any level. The principles, reputation and ethos of the club will always take priority and we will
not compromise on any of these.

We are already developing realistic ways to make the PAC more attractive to our members and are
confident that we will increase PAC membership in the short-term. There are many other issues to address
here, not least the reputation of the club amongst fellow pikers and the many misconceptions about us and
what we do. Often in the past, individuals have damaged our reputation, brought us into disrepute and
rightfully left us open to accusations of elitism. This undermines the hard work of the vast majority of
members who are unselfishly committed to the club. No single member is above the club, that includes the
committee and all decisions will be based purely on the ‘interests of the club and its members’
Our members are second to none

Membership may be lower than we would like but on a more positive note; though limited in numbers, we
are still a force to be reckoned with and highly regarded throughout the sport and industry. This is all down
to you, our members. We get results because no other club shares our level of passion and this is an
absolute credit to all our members, old and new. What I will say here is that I would rather have a club of
2000 dedicated members than 5000 numpties. One of the best ways to build membership is for existing
members to introduce a fellow piker to the club. There are many responsible pikers out there who are not
members and should be and there is no better way to recruit quality members than by recommendation.
We are one of the most successful angling clubs in the UK and have made significant progress regarding
pike angling & conservation. Sometimes we need to cast our minds back 35 years to fully appreciate what
we have achieved. It’s impressive!

We take membership so seriously that the Membership Secretary’s duties will now be a shared role and I
hope that Brian and John will be flat out busy for the next 3 years.

We all need to be pro-active

We have to be more pro-active in our approach to succeed. The PAC relies on a network of
Representatives, LO’s & RO’s to establish and maintain Regional Associations. This is our direct link with
members, other organisations and indeed the public in general. This is our front-line and an essential part
of promoting the club and recruiting new members. Sadly, we are under-represented in some areas and
this is something we need to rectify if we are to increase our profile & support on a national basis. As can
be seen recently in Scotland and Norfolk, we can make real progress if we have a pro-active approach and
the right individuals onboard. These individuals are rare creatures and will appropriately be given our full
backing and support.

For regions to be of significant use to the club they must be active. Some regions are very pro-active and
this is an absolute credit to those who run them. To progress the club further, this has to be extended to all
regions and indeed LO’s & RO’s, all of whom I’ll be contacting directly within the next few days. As a proactive Committee we will be leading from the front and by example.

We are not here to play at it - our plans extend way beyond our 3-year term. We intend to use this term to
set the standard for the next 35 years of the PAC. On behalf of the entire committee, thank you all in advance for your support.

Alan Dudhill

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Interview With New PAC President, and Pikelines Editor, Dilip Sarkar MBE.

 Dilip diving with pike at Stoney Cove in 2003, whilst training
for an expedition to dive the scuttled German WW1 fleet at Scapa Flow.
Pike Pool: Welcome to The Pool from all Pool-Siders, Dilip. Have you looked in on The Pool? If so, to give you a little tester to start with, tell us what you think of the Pool, and what your favourite article and why?!

DS: Thanks Pool-siders, and for giving me an opportunity to introduce myself. Online publishing offers really exciting and potentially unlimited opportunities - especially as it can be achieved from any home computer. This means that so much more material, of all kinds, will be published in future – which, speaking as an author and publisher who came up the slow and hard way, is a very great thing. I’m all for The Pike Pool, therefore, and a big fan of online publishing generally – so much easier and cheaper! So firstly I’d commend all involved with The Pool for setting up this initiative and especially for providing new writers with a platform - because I’ll always remember how hard that was back in the day.

Back in the day: a seventeen year old Dilip Sarkar
with a Severn double in 1978, a year after joining
the new PAC and when Worcestershire RO.
 The articles I found particularly interesting were your interview with new PAC Events Manager Pete Foster – a fine angler and committed PAC man – and those by our mutual friend Steve Bown. I’ve a great deal of time for Steve – another fine angler and committed PAC member, who has worked tirelessly for the Club for many years; I was absolutely delighted when he bagged his first two double-figure zander from my stretch, especially considering their size, and what can anybody say about that terrific brace, including an 18.04, on 14 March 2012 from elsewhere on the Severn. Steve’s pieces perfectly capture both his passion and the moment – which is what it’s all about.

The Pike Pool: Many Pool Siders are PAC members and the three of us who put The Pool together absolutely love the Club, so tell us a bit about your good-self and association with PAC.

DS: Growing up on the banks of the rivers Severn and Teme here in Worcester, my friends, with whom I still fish today, got into fishing in a big way at an early age. The pike always hugely excited and inspired us. At a time when every pike caught was killed, we were appalled by this and began returning them. This didn’t go down at all well, putting us thirteen year olds in direct conflict with the local match and game anglers. In those days of the early 1970s there were no other pike anglers in this area, so we were really out on a limb.
Dilip’s first twenty: 3 January 1980, 23.04
from a Cotswold trout water.
 When the PAC started in 1977, therefore, it was fantastic for us, because for the first time we were in the orbit of other pikers, on our wavelength, and had access to information via the Club magazine. Remember that back then piking wasn’t much covered in the angling press, there was no internet and there weren’t many books available either. We largely made our own rods, floats, indicators, buzzers and landing-net frames – how things change! In 1978 I succeeded Des Taylor as Worcestershire RO, but as a student without transport and with so few members it was an impossible task, really. I also had a monumental fall-out with one of my young friends over this, because although a PAC member, and still is, he disagreed with us having an active Regional Association, believing this to be detrimental to our own fishing. I strongly disagreed and still do. We have never changed our positions on this issue, in fact. My view, however, is that people will always go piking – but I would prefer them to do so competent in handling pike.
Piking revisited:
12 March 2011 – River Severn, 25.01
 Anyway, by 1980 I’d had enough so passed over to someone else, and the Region folded soon afterwards. By 1985, for a variety of reasons, I had stopped serious piking, although I revisited it in the early nineties for a while, and at which time I re-joined PAC. Due to work and life commitments, though, I was then forced in to carping for convenience sake. Between 1999 – 2005, I was a very serious technical deep shipwreck diver, so didn’t fish seriously again until 2005, getting involved with PAC once more in 2009. So, here I am again!

The Pike Pool: Have you got any plans or priorities for the PAC moving forward, if so please share them with us.

DS: We have many plans! PAC is moving forward – big time. Our new Committee – 12PAC – is inspired with energy, enthusiasm and vision. 12PAC will be engaging widely with members and increasing PAC’s use of the media – including the internet. This package includes Team Pikelines, to produce both a printed and interactive online version of Pikelines, the latter as an additional member benefit, and Team Internet – to completely oversee a professionally led upgrade of PAC’s entire online presence. This will include a whole new website, forum, dedicated operatives for such things as Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and video production; Mark Skinner is currently researching a PAC App – so the future is arriving at last! We will be getting PAC’s new ethos and message out there – loud and clear. In short PAC is joining the digital revolution, and as the strapline says on the forthcoming Pikelines, this really is a ‘New Dawn’ – and the blue touch paper about to be lit!

 We have some terrific people on the new Committee – you’ll be hearing much more of them all in future – but I’d particularly like to welcome aboard my partner in crime, General Secretary Alan Dudhill – a massively enthusiastic individual, Pike Angler of the Year 2011, and a passionate former RO; former PAC General Secretary and current President and Editor of the Lure Anglers’ Society, Chris Liebbrandt – who joins us as Advertising Manager and will be of so much help in many ways; Pete Foster taking over as Events Manager; Angling Times correspondent and angling author Dominic Garnett dealing with press and news, and PAC stalwarts Brian Birdsall and John Keeley jointly taking over as Membership Secretary. John Synnuck remains Chair, Colin Goodge Convention Manager, Mark Skinner Products Manager, Giles Hill Treasuer, and Mike Skipper continues to have an input into Team Internet – more of which another time. Alan and I are all for pulling down ivory towers – wherever they persist – and 12PAC will be, you can be assured – a CAN DO set-up!

 Externally we will be building bridges and working in partnership with numerous organisations and agencies to ensure that PAC has a loud voice regarding issues affecting angling. For example we are already supporting the Angling Trust in various ways, especially the ‘Building Bridges’ Project aimed at helping to resolve the poaching and fish theft issue, and I have recently become a Patron and board member of the Predation Action Group. Alan is already planning meetings for us with various PAC members, notably in Scotland and Norfolk, so we’ll be out there. We all need to be working together, presenting the right image – and making progress.

 Colin Goodge does a terrific job of organising the annual Convention, and we’ll certainly be looking at how he can be supported – don’t miss this year’s Convention, by the way, a top line up of speakers and traders marking PAC’s thirty-fifth anniversary (22 September 2012, The Pavillions of Harrogate)!

Angling generally needs to encourage young people, and from what I see PAC is on the ball with this. Eric Edwards has really picked up the gauntlet here, and, having qualified himself as an angling coach is driving things forward. So, this area of operations has to be a priority – because without younger people involved, we have no future – and that isn’t an exaggeration. Eric will be PAC’s Angling Development Officer – it needs one. Hopefully PAC’s new online strategy – which won’t happen overnight, because it takes time to get things right – will also appeal to young people.

Dilip considers a big Severn pike to be 25+, and last season was lucky enough to catch two over that mark, 26.08 and 27.02 (the latter pictured here). With 53 doubles from the Severn that season, including three twenties, the ratio of 17.66 doubles per twenty emphasises how few and far between the bigger pike are on Britain’s longest river

The Pike Pool: Pikelines is a great magazine we all look forward to landing on our door mats every three months. Steve Ormrod was a legend in his time as Editor. Have you any plans and hopes for Pikelines yourselves guys?

DS: I’ll say! We have just increased the magazine by four pages, and intend to go ‘live’ with an interactive version ASAP – as an added bonus to members. Rest assured, though, the printed version of Pikelines will remain available – at least until the world becomes totally consumed by the digital revolution and printed paper disappears from common use. As I said earlier, we now have Team Pikelines to produce the magazine. Alan and I are very keen indeed to use members’ professional experience wherever and whenever possible. On that basis Steve remains aboard as Production and Design Manager, which was actually his intended role; Dominic Garnett will be handling news; Roger Howes proof-reading; Tom Balaam is our roving PAC photographer; Chris Liebbrandt will drive forward advertising; my son, James, will continue co-ordinating Young Pikers (which he was doing before I got involved, I hasten to add), and last but not least, I am now Editor. Obviously Team Pikelines will, in due course, be working very closely with the internet team – definitely the way forward.
     A huge victory of 2012 was successfully campaigning to see Major Booth’s record Wye pike returned to Hereford Museum. Here Dr John Tate, RO for Halesowen, and Dilip shake hands at the Museum - on a day they frequently never thought would come. The fish remains displayed there until June 2012, when it goes to a taxidermist for complete restoration. In 2013 the pike will provide an impressive centre-piece to a unique exhibition concerning the history of angling in the Wye Valley – providing an unprecedented opportunity to promote pike conservation and the PAC in that game dominated area.

  The Pike Pool: All work and no play leads to a very dull pike angler; I am sure you will agree. Tell us firstly what you would like to catch next winter and secondly outside of fishing what you would love to do?

DS: Well that’s a difficult one at the moment, because PAC is taking up so much of my time, and I also have to write for a living, so there there may not be much time for personal fishing for a while. That said, I think that the cornerstone we are now laying is so crucial to PAC moving forward that the investment of time and personal sacrifice is entirely justified – there’s a bigger picture, sometimes, than fish in the back of your own net.

 Last season Dilip fished for the Severn zander from
the bank, until the piking began in earnest – this 12.03
was one of three doubles caught on the afternoon
of 13 September 2011.
That said, last season I concentrated almost exclusively on my local River Severn, fishing for zander until November, and mainly pike thereafter. I fortunately did well with both species, although James trounced me with a very big zander, so I’d still like one of those! One of the reasons I put so much time in locally was because James was doing a predator survey for his fishery management course, requiring us to weigh, measure and photograph every single pike and zander caught. The data collated has been amazing (and will be published in a future issue of Pikelines), we have learned so much about the predator population. I was proposing a campaign on a different river, but the more I think about it a greater contribution would be to repeat this process, which with data collated over two seasons would be even more useful – indeed, after the recent flood, which was significant, we may even be in for one or two surprises; I am very interested to see how much the pike population in particular changes annually. So, I reckon that’s my mind made up! In addition, I’ll also be getting out and about around the Regions, talking, and personally supporting both our local RAs: Worcestershire and Teme Valley.

Outside angling and writing, Dilip,
now aged 50 and who describes
himself as ‘a bit of a silly old fool’,
is playing cricket again for Malvern
Cricket Club, after many years away
from the game.
 Outside of fishing, I still have books to write and am currently working on a very detailed and critical biography of the wartime legless flying ace Douglas Bader – whose story was featured in the 1954 best-seller Reach for the Sky and film of the same name. I was reading for my PhD, researching the Spitfire as the icon of Britain’s popular memory of World War Two, but that’s on hold whilst we lay PAC’s new cornerstone. I was fifty last August and had a bit of a crisis: I decided to start playing club cricket again! So, together with James and my seventeen year-old stepson, George, we’ve been training in the indoor nets since last October – and now await our first game of the season, should it ever stop raining, for Malvern Cricket Club! Basically I suppose I’m one of those inspired people who do everything 200% or not at all – and my late father, a Magistrate, Quaker and tireless charity worker – always brought me up with a strong sense of wanting to make a positive contribution and difference.

The Pike Pool: One last question: you’ve got to choose both a female and male boat partner for a day on Chew Valley Reservoir this coming October. Holly Willoughby or Fern Cotton? / Mick Brown or Neville Fickling / or others…. Please tell!

DS: Well, for the female I could only choose my wife, the angling artist Karen Sarkar! A passionate wildlife enthusiast, Karen became absolutely fascinated by pike after catching a jack a few years ago. It was at that point my life changed, because with Karen and my son, James, being so inspired it was inevitable that as a family our lives would revolve around fishing – as mine did years ago. Karen has become a competent pike angler and has slowly increased her PB to 16.15 (that’s the way to do it!). When she gets a twenty-pounder we’ll have a party, because she really deserves one – not many slightly built females I know are prepared to go out in all weathers, at all times and day and night, season in, season out!

 For a male boat partner, well, I can cheat a bit here. Nev and I communicate by email on a very regular basis, which is always illuminating; Mick Brown was here for lunch, with Chris Liebbrandt, recently, collecting his angling portrait from Karen - we sat and chatted for hours and only then do you realise how little, by comparison, you know! So, for a male boat partner it would have to be my son, James, who I have taken fishing since he was three years old. It really is his absolute passion, to the extent that he is now studying fishery management. James and I are very close, and life hasn’t always been easy for the two of us, but we emerged through those rough times intact and still smiling…

The Pike Pool: Many thanks Dilip for your time to answer our questions. The Pool wish yourself and your fellow committee members all the very best over the next three years and hope you all get out and catch some nice fish along the way too.