Monday, 15 October 2012

An Inexperienced Pike Angler

An Inexperienced Piker

I must admit I was a little shocked when I received a message from Rob Shallcroft asking me to contribute to The Pike Pool! I like the idea of writing but what could I write about? I sat down and thought about the people on the forum and all the years of experience, dedication and big pike caught between them. What could I possibly offer these people? After all I'm only in my 3rd season of 'serious' piking! It's a daunting task when you know your angling heroes will be reading!

After a little thought and a few messages to the ever helpful Steve Bown I decided to write about what is to me, my greatest piking achievement. Catching my first river 20!

Before starting my 'serious' piking I was running around chasing pike that didn't exist and fishing waters that I did not understand. I fished on my own and had no other piking friends to share info or ideas with. It was so frustrating!! However, even with things seemingly against me my spirit was certainly not dampened. In fact I became more and more determined and more and more obsessive!
One day while fishing a large still water from a boat I found myself in a pickle. With the wind picking up and starting to blow me down the lake, away from the launch. I realised oar power wasn't going to be good enough if things were to get any worse. After a torrid 30 minutes of rowing I finally made it back. This was my first taste of the significance of weather conditions. I realised the way forward would be to get my own boat and most importantly one with an outboard.

Scouring the Pike & Predator forum I spotted a boat for sale and best of all it was only 10 minutes down the road. After a quick call and short drive I found myself in the company of the type of pike angler I had only ever read about. This guy not only had all the gear but certainly the idea! His garage wall above the work bench dedicated to pictures of '30's'. To say the least I was blown away! This guy had a tally of pike that would make most seasoned pikers green with envy! After a very cagey start he slowly began to warm to my enthusiasm and threw me a few pointers. I told him how I was desperate to catch my first 20 to which he replied 'your best chance of a 20 is up the river'.
I must admit I was a little shocked by his advice, but I was sold! So the next season was spent getting to grips with river tactics, which I can assure you are not easy! There’s so much to learn (and still is), river levels, water clarity, identifying holding areas, correct tackle, bait selection etc. So I settled on a quiet stretch of river that didn’t get too much pressure. It held plenty of unknowns as far as I was concerned and the scenery was second to none. I decided to start off fishing two rods with float ledgerd deadbaits, leap frogging my way along the bank. A logical approach it seemed? And to a degree this tactic worked. I started to identify the areas pike held up, their preference for a popped up roach over a sea bait, and the optimum water clarity (for deadbaits). I caught a few nice doubles up to eighteen and a half pounds but felt I wasn’t making the most of things. Still, I was catching and that meant I had information to work with. Chew was next on the cards, so the river would have to wait until the following week. I had fished Chew the previous season and witnessed the biggest pike I had ever seen, all 26lbs of it. There was no way I was going to miss a day on Chew for anything! Tactics were a lot easier than the river, sling out two deadbaits and wait, even then I realised Chew is a lottery. To my delight my numbers came up and I was rewarded with an absolute cracker, 23lb 4oz of personal best pike cradled in my arms. I had finally caught a ‘20’ and as happy as it made me I now wanted a river ‘20’. So I was back up the river to resume business as usual with a few doubles here and there but despite my best efforts that was it for the rest of the season.

The following season I started to get to grips with things. I learnt the effectiveness of live baiting and quickly changed my approach. I was no longer carrying two rods and all the gear. I was now fishing one rod and carried only the bare minimum. My new approach was to cover as much water as possible and put the bait in their faces. Pike will turn down ‘lives’ though it isn’t often, especially after the river has been in flood. As a result my fishing became far more exciting and takes could be spectacular. Despite my new found confidence and enthusiasm a ‘20’ had still not graced my net!

It was my last days fishing of the season, just before the rivers were due to close. I woke up that morning and said to myself ‘today is the day! You will get your 20!’ I was literally brimming with confidence. I parked the car and headed for my favourite stretch. Not a soul in sight! This meant I could fish without needing eyes in the back of my head!

The river was that lovely winter green colour, visibility around 4ft, and running fairly low. Not ideal but with a bucket of lives I was still confident! So began the usual routine, park up and drop in all my favourite swims. After a few hours of not so much as a follow, I was starting to get rather concerned. I dropped into a great spot that has thrown up a few nice fish in the past. ‘I’m bound to have a fish here’ I thought. I trotted the roach down the glide time after time...nothing! This is not going to plan! Looking at my livebait bucket I remembered the big roach I’d caught a few days earlier ‘right then buddy! If I’m going to get a 20 today you will do the business for me’. I headed back to my favourite spot on the stretch, a lovely big slack on the inside of a large bend. I crept down to the river, put the big roach on and went for a little underarm swing. Doh! I fumbled the cast and the bait landed 5-6 yards in front of me. That’s not where I want the bait so I reeled in to try again. As I reeled the bait in out of nowhere a pike shot out and had a go at the roach only to turn away and retreat to the depths. “Bugger me if that isn’t 20lbs its bloody close“! I heard myself saying ,I quickly lobbed the bait back out right in the danger zone... nothing, 5 yards past the danger zone... nothing, 10 yards... nothing, 15, 20..nothing! Then just as I was about to reel back in… BANG! The float had gone and was heading for the opposite bank. I wound down and hit it. After a short tussle and a couple of head shakes later she was in. No question about it! Same fish!

‘That’s 20’ I thought to myself.’ You’ve only gone and done it on the last day of the season with your last good bait!’. Out with the scales, everything zeroed, time to see the needle pass the 20lb mark for the first time on the river! When they settled on 18lb 13oz I must say I was a little shocked. I’d had a few 20’s from other waters by this time and felt sure this was of the same calibre. I double checked the scales and they read the same. ‘Never mind that’ll do’. I slipped her back and watched her glide into the current melting away into the green water.

Despite the numbers placed on her by the flyweights that moment was up there with the very best! In fact it was the most satisfying moment I have experienced in fishing. I have caught much bigger fish since but I always find myself reminiscing about this capture. So feeling rather pleased with myself and a lack of decent live baits I decided it was time to go home and hang the rods up.

A few months later after showing my fishing buddies the pics we all agreed it looked a scraper 20. She weighed what she weighed and that’s it.... right? With that niggling in my head I decided to buy a new set of Ruben specimen scales and tested them against my flyweights. The verdict… my flyweights were weighing between 1lb 2oz and 1lb 6oz light, my suspicion confirmed. More evidence followed after exchanging pictures with Steve Bown, he had caught her a few weeks earlier than I did at 2oz over the ‘mark’.

My scales had clearly taken a hammering form all the trekking up and down the river. As to the exact weight at which I caught her remains a mystery. But truth be told, I couldn’t give a toss! Because when I really thought about it, all that mattered was catching that pike. I can remember every detail as though it had just happened. And a little controversy makes it all the more interesting!

Maybe next time I can write something from a more experienced position but for now I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.

Tight Lines Lewis

PS The following season I managed to get my ‘20’.... and not just the one! Maybe it will make an interesting read next time?!

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