Tuesday, 28 August 2012

My Pike Fishing Journey

My Pike Fishing Journey
Well where to begin? This is the first time I have ever attempted to write an article of any sort, and for my first to be for the fantastic “Pike Pool” it does leave me quite daunted, looking at the quality of previous articles.

My first encounter with pike took place when I was just 9 years old, and though 13 years have passed since that day I can still remember it vividly. The day was just like any typical day ( as I was to learn in later life) and the lack of activity had caused my young mind to wander, but then suddenly an alarm sounded, dad was instantly on the rod, where as I was somewhat slower in working out what was happening. After waiting a few seconds the strike was made and the fish was on, dad passed the rod over to me, the fight was pretty unspectacular, the fish near enough giving up as soon as it was hooked, anyway the fish in the end was netted, unhooked, weighed and photographed and then slipped back, for the record the fish weighed 12lb 5oz, and though strictly not my catch, I do class it as my first pike capture.

It then took another 4 years for pike to cross my path again, having moved to a new village I had a large drain well with in cycling distance of my home, and a small spoon fished next to a bridge accounted for my second pike, and though it weighed barely a pound it was no less significant, and it served to inspire me to try and continue catching them. It wasn’t until 2005 when my next double graced my net, it came from small village pond about 2 miles from my house, and religiously I would be up at the crack of dawn every Saturday and Sunday to visit and get my piking fix, and though there where not many pike present, they were always catch able, which at such a young age and with my yearning to learn and catch more, this was a perfect situation, fish to low doubles made the effort all worthwhile and I look back on this chapter of my pike fishing apprenticeship with fond memories, and though the pond is now totally devoid of pike I will never forget those fun times.

2005/2006 was my first proper pike fishing season, and though captures of pike where rare, there were always positives to be taken from every trip out, I did manage the odd fish though and at the back end of the season I did manage to up my personal best when a long lean and spawned out fish fell to my sardine, and though she only weighed just under 15lb it was never the less a positive step, and left me feeling full of confidence for the next season.
In the early days my tackle probably left a lot to be desired, and though it never stopped me catching the odd fish, it did make the fishing harder then it could be, it was the following season that I received my first proper pike rod, when I was bought a nice fox dead bait rod, this rod was put to use and though again the fish where mainly small the odd better fish, and double did come my way, it was again though at the back end of the season when I achieved my target of that season.
It was the 1st of March and it was my birthday, my dad and I visited a stretch of drain that I had never been to, but one that he had visited occasionally before, the only run of the day came to my my dead bait rod and a lovely long fish of just over 19lb made it a season to remember. Progress was being made now at quite a quick pace, but unfortunately the close season came and that had looked to curtail my pike fishing for at least 7 months, it seemed though as luck was on my side, and I was invited on a week long pike fishing trip to the highlands of Scotland with a friend and his dad, despite several disasters of the trip up there and on the subsequent trip home we managed to reach our destinations safely , from what I remember of the fishing, which was a bit slow, I did never the less manage to up my personal best again, when a long lean fighting fit pike picked up my half mackerel. She threatened to be my first 20, and though she fell 3 ounces short of twenty pounds she is a fish I will never forget, the only regret I have of this capture was not getting a photograph, but even at my young age I understood the importance of fish welfare and decided that after such a long, hard fight it was best to return her as quickly as possible. The highlands have left a lasting impression on me, and despite the beauty of the western loughs of Ireland, and the flat beauty of the fens and the broads, it is the highlands of Scotland which are always on my mind, and I am hoping one day soon to move there in pursuit of those big wild pike.

 The 07-08 season carried on when I returned from Scotland, and though a lot of people would consider an August start too early for pike, I am sure that none of the fish came to any harm, and though they were again mostly on the smaller side it was none the less enjoyable, the only other capture that really stood out that season was that of the capture of my biggest lure caught pike, the capture itself was a total fluke as I managed to over cast my spoon into a bush, as I pulled it fell into the water and was taken on the drop, the pike weighed a little over 19lb and I’m not sure who was more surprised me or the pike. I learnt more and more that season and it helped me catch more pike then I had done in my life previous, like the need to remain on the move if the pike where not forthcoming from any spot I fished, the need to employ different tactics, like popping baits up, paternostering or twitching baits back, this is something I enjoy the most, the need for constant change to suit different circumstance and it certainly does help to put more fish on the bank. It does disappoint me though to see fewer and fewer youngsters pike fishing, these days most youngsters want everything on a plate and are not prepared to work for their fish, and with the explosion in carp fishing, and the relative ease of catching big carp fairly regularly it has led to them going over to carp fishing as it does require less effort in my opinion.

The 08-09 season was one to remember, and one I'm certain I will never better, I again started in August and from the off I was catching fish, lots and lots of doubles came my way, and by Christmas that year I had already beaten the previous seasons total, and taken fish up to 18lb,    then in January everything changed, the first week and a half in January saw everywhere near me unfishable as all my local venues where frozen solid, but as soon as the lid came off my dad and I where off fishing, and that first trip out produced my long waited for first 20 pounder, she weighed 21-08 and left me feeling over the moon. That capture hadn’t had a chance to sink in before I was on my way to Ireland for 2 weeks pike fishing, the first week was terrible, the only happening of note being me losing a mid twenty at the boat, by the end of the first week I was ready to throw in the towel, Neville Fickling arrived at the end of the week, but the fish where still absent, it wasn’t until the last day of the second week did everything change. We had been afloat for a few hours and I had had the only run, which resulted in a small jack, then out of nowhere my float ledgered Pollan was on the move, and a swift strike saw me connected to something quite considerable, with the fish quickly by the side of the boat we saw it and my dad instantly said 20, my knees now had gone and I was just desperate to get her in, but she had other ideas and was off under the boat, eventually she was netted and then it dawned on us that she was much bigger, my dad took over, unhooked her and popped her on the scales, and when he said she could be a 30 I nearly fainted, the needle eventually settled on 29-14, I was just shell shocked, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.

 We carried on in the same area, and just before packing up my large smelt was taken by another fish which weighed 28-08 and bought the curtain down on a day that just didn’t seem real, it took a long time to sink in, and looking back now I will be honest and say that my dad deserved at least one, if not both of those fish, but that is the way fishing goes, and there have been times since when he has caught good fish while I have blanked. 

I returned back to the fens and continued to catch more pike, using all the different methods and ideas I had learnt and ended a truly remarkable season with 69 doubles and three twenties, something that didn’t seem possible just a few years before.
The next season I then experienced how hard pike fishing can be, but that is all part and parcel of it, to be honest I enjoy it when it becomes difficult as it means you really have to work for your fish and there is always a huge amount of satisfaction in catching a good fish when you have worked really hard for it. I also learnt probably the most important lesson that season, and that was to keep good fishing quiet, unfortunately other people could not do this and needless to say that stretch of drain was well fished, and the fishing to this day still has not returned to anywhere near the level we experienced. Anyway going back to that season, the fishing was dire for most of it, and it wasn’t until January again the a magical spell saved the season from being a disaster, when in the space of 3 days I managed three twenties, three 19s and several other doubles to save the season from being a complete write off.

By the season of 10-11 I was a full time pike angler, and no other species interested me, unless it could be used as bait, pike pretty much occupied all of my days off work, and no matter what the weather was like I was out pike fishing. As my time was curtailed due to work and I only had weekends to fish I had to move onto new venues that where not crowded at weekends. And though numbers of fish caught were not great,they were a higher than average size, I could hardly complain. The odd surprise turned up that season, including the capture of what at the time was my biggest fenland pike, she came at the very beginning of the season and was very thin and empty, but still, at an ounce over twenty five pounds I most certainly was not disappointed, and though I tried later in the season I never caught her again when I’m sure she would have passed the magical 30 mark.

 The other remarkable capture of that season took place at a small “lake” near me, the lake in question was no more than 2 acres and about 3 foot deep, it had a reputation of being a jack water, and personally I had no interest in fishing it, anyway my friend managed to persuade me and having been there only an hour my one run had produced a huge fish weighed 28-06, I was shocked and speechless, while my friend just smiled, I had no idea this fish existed but he did, and all I could do was apologise to him for catching it, this taught me never to under estimate small waters, and though the fish is long gone I hope that history will one day repeat itself and I will be there at the right time.

And now we are onto the last chapter so far in my pike fishing life. Last season had many high points, fish where caught, some big, some small, some from new venues, and some ducks where broken on jinx waters. But also there were also very low points, the loss of two very large fish made me feel sick, and that also my enthusiasm deserted me on occasions making it a very turbulent season. Looking back now with hindsight I would say despite everything the season just passed was probably the most thrilling season, with the fishing being so hard on my normal water I was forced to explore new waters, or neglected areas of venues where people just couldn’t be bothered to fish, and thought all these things turned up fish it was one of my normal waters which provided me with my two biggest pike of last season, but I did achieve a target of mine and catch a 20 from a new water, which is always very satisfying.

Now I am at the end, I would just like to mention I owe an awful lot to my dad, for without him I would not be the angler I am today, and would most certainly not caught all the fish I have, and without him I very probably wouldn’t even be an angler.
Anyway thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed writing it, and reminiscing about all the fish that have graced my net, and I can now look forward to the next 40 odd years of pike fishing.  

David Vaissiere

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Paternosters for all reasons

Dave Lumb

Back in the days when a bucket of livebaits was always with me when I was piking I settled on a very simple paternoster set up that eliminated tangles from lively baits and any chance of a bite off. I didn't invent the rig I just adopted it. When I say rig, there are two variations that I have used.

In the rig's simplest form all you do is tie your lead link to the eye of the top treble of a two hook trace. I know that this looks like it will restrict the bait's freedom. But that's kind of the point. It cannot swim up above the trace. It's lateral movement is limited, but not as severely as you might imagine. When fishing a sunk float a lively bait will be able to drag the float down as it swims away from its tethered position. It does have a circle of movement. With a surface float in use this is limited, but provided the float is set a little overdepth the bait will not be stuck in one spot. Watch the float and you'll see it move around in a small circle.

The link being tied to the hook doesn't deter pike from taking baits, and, perhaps surprisingly, doesn't result in a lead being lost every time a pike is hooked. I'm tight, and if I'd lost a lead every time I hooked a pike on this rig I'd have stopped using it after two fish. I lie. After one fish!

Where this rig really scores over the traditional paternoster is in casting. It casts more smoothly, without the 'bolas effect' associated with longer hook traces,and gives you greater accuracy. When faced with a strong headwind this set-up, using two ounce leads or heavier and a small bait hooked head up trace, can be punched out further than a big bait on a normal paternoster. It comes in handy for fishing baits tight up to stands of reed. Not only because it casts accurately, but because the bait can't swim too far from the reeds, or into them, once everything is set.

Sometimes I vary this rig by tying the lead link to the trace itself using a stop-knot knot a few inches above the hooks. I have done this when fishing livebaits, but mostly I do it with deadbaits. I don't have a logical reason for this, it just feels right to let a deadbait dangle away from the lead link. There is a drawback in that tied like this the link does get tangled with the hooks. More so with deads than lives for some reason. This is why I prefer to fish deads on a different paternoster rig. One that I've also used for trolling.

One that fell for a paternostered sardine
Again it is pretty simple. All there is to it is a John Roberts Paternoster Boom on the line above the trace. There is a rubber bead or a buffer bead between the boom and the trace to prevent damage to the knot and any chance of the boom jamming. Placing a float stop above, but not touching, the boom is optional. Fishing a paternostered deadbait on this rig is about as tangle free as you can get. It doesn't cast as well as the first rig, but that's the trade off. For trollernostering deadbaits it works a treat as they are prone to spin and cause tangles if a link is tied to the trace. It's the rotation of the boom around the line that stops most of the tangling. If you want to switch back and forth between a float paternoster to a float leger this rig is ideal. Cut the lead link off, clip a hooked snap link or paper clip onto the boom and attached the lead to that. Bingo. You've got a float leger rig!

These two rigs served me well for years. They are simple and don't involve making special traces. All I have to do is make up plain old snap tackles and I can use them for legering or paternostering deads, or by tying a link to the trace they can be used to paternoster lives. They're cheap on swivels and snaps, and they aren't tangle prone.

However, if you are into making dedicated paternoster traces, I have recently redeveloped one from my early days of rig making. It incorporates the anti-tangle properties of a boom, with the bite-off resistance of the link-to-hook rig. At a pinch it can be used as a a leger trace too.

Another to the Roberts Boom paternoster
back in the Dark Ages
Sometime back in the 1980s I wrote in Pikelines about a paternoster trace using a leger bead trapped between two superglued beads. I'd done well with it and it was far less tangle prone than any of the uptrace rigs I tried at the time. It's only drawback was that it was a bugger to make up. The beads had to have a tiny hole or they wouldn't glue to the wire and they would sometimes come unglued. Sticking them back in place once wet was impossible. Getting back into piking this winter I have been messing about with rigs in an effort to streamline things further. I've detailed my flexible drain rig on my Lumbland blog, but I've saved this dedicated paternoster for The Pike Pool.

All you do once you have the trebles attached to your trace is thread on a Fox Braid Stop followed by a leger bead and a second stop. Then finish the trace as normal. Okay, so getting the stops on to the wire isn't easy, it helps to soften them in boiling water to get them onto the trace wire, but that means they grip well. Once in place they can be moved up and down the trace to give the bait more freedom if it's a livey, or to keep it from the link of it's a dead. I've not had the stops slip on the cast, and unless you are really belting the rig out using a heavy lead I think they are most unlikely to move. As it's the bottom stop that would slip it wouldn't affect the uptrace properties of the rig in any case. Superglue would stop slippage, or you could try using two stops below the bead. However it isn't likely to be a problem needing solving.

Although I haven't tried it, I can't see any reason why this trace set-up couldn't be used for legering livebaits – with a short link tied between leger bead and lead – at least at close range. A poly ball or bait popper tied to one of the trebles was always my preferred presentation when legering lives on similar rigs in the past. To use the trace for legering or wobbling deadbaits simply slide everything up to the swivel and remove the weak link.

I'm not suggesting this is the ultimate paternoster rig. It is a good one though and if you want to avoid tangles and unnecessary joins in your paternoster traces while retaining the benefits of an up-trace, then the bead rig might be the one for you.