Sunday, 21 October 2012

Running Out Of Time

Running out of time

90% of my Pike fishing is done on Yorkshire rivers, I started off on a river less than a mile from home and from the start I knew that this was the type of Pike fishing that would compliment my lure fishing, not only could I keep myself to myself by just wandering off, but the fishing was pretty good, not many big Pike but plenty of doubles with a couple of fish breaking the 20lb barrier.
Now once I start to get recaptures I tend to get a little restless, I actually enjoy the chase of Pike fishing and I am always looking for the next venue, last season I picked a river that’s about 40 minutes from my home which meant that travelling was not too much of an issue and I could also get back home pretty quickly if my wife went into labour(Poppy due on 5th of April).

Its a very pretty river with varying depths and winding bends, running through industrial town centres and also stunning countryside. My attack was going to be lures and I would resort to baits if the clarity was an issue which is not unusual on a lot of Yorkshire rivers, but this meant taking twice the amount of gear so I would take 3 or 4 lures that I knew would cover the water and depths well and a single bait rod.

My first few trips went really well and although I caught nothing over 20lbs most swims contained one or two doubles and it was only going to be a matter of time before I fell on a better fish. The first good fish I found was on a classic river swim with a tight inside bend with a tight slack of maybe 8ft deep, then much faster water being pushed around the outside of the swim, I had fished it the week previous and managed a jack, but at some point it had to hold better fish, on my first cast in the swim I had a fish around mid double shoot out from under one of the three overhanging bushes and have a go at a Cobbs countdown but she would not take the lure, I switched straight onto a replicant and again she would only follow, after a good few casts I decided to walk away and rest the swim, but just before I walked away I though I would try the opposite end of the swim and that’s when I first saw a fish well worth catching, I cast the Cobbs out 10ft into the swim and just as I ended my retrieve she came from under on of the bushes, she was easily 20lbs, and looked in mint condition, and although she never came back to my lures I had to give it 20mins with the bait rod. A float ledgered Herring went out right between the trees and I waited for a response, I have found that on these rivers that if the fish are feeding then the bait is taken within 5-10 minutes of the bait going in but after 20 minutes I decided to leave the swim and move on, I have to admit that I a bit gutted that I had to leave the swim but I knew that at least two good fish lived in the area and they would wait for another day.

Very steep banks make a lot of the river un fishable and when alone its just not worth the risk, so when you find a swim that has everything, then you have to make your mind up, can I catch and safely land a pike from the swim?, and if the answer is yes you have to give it half an hour, the swim was perfect, water outlet with deep holes, overhanging trees and the first deep outside bend after a long shallow section, it had to hold Pike I tried a few casts around the swim with lures but the only fish I took was a jack of around 6lbs, so I thought I would try a bait right next to a large bush that was overhanging the far bank slack, the cast was into about 5ft of water that dropped away to 12ft I was gutted not to get even a twitch on my float after 30 minutes so I decided to move on, just as I wound my bait back I was shocked top see a good 20lber following not the bait but the float, I dropped the bait to the river bed straight away and gave it 10 minutes but nothing, again I was all over the swim with lures but she was not seen again, I had to come back.

The weather took a turn for the worse in the new year and between boat and canal fishing it was always in the back of my mind that I had to go back and catch one of the bigger fish from my new river. February saw snow fall and much colder temperatures, I knew the river would be an option especially before the snow melt so I decided to give it a go.

I arrived at the water to see snow covered fields and the 5 min walk to the swim soon warmed me up, the temperature overnight was down to -6 but I still felt that the river would be fruitful, the snow around the swim was virgin snow apart from some footprints from a fox, just the way I like it. The river had steam coming off it and while setting up the bait rod a barn owl flew through the swim, is there any better place to be on a winters morning?.

I decided to drop a lamprey on the upstream side of the far bank slack, this would mean that any juices would flow through my swim and hopefully attract any fish from down stream into the swim while I worked a lure around, the bait was out for less than 10 minutes before I got a drop-back on my BBB's, sure enough the float was slowly moving out into the flow, I wound down straight away and was met with a bit of resistance, I carefully walked down the bank with the net and netted the fish on my first attempt, she went 16lbs and although I was very happy I was gutted that it was not the fish that I had seen previously.

I got a quick picture and placed her back a little downstream and carried on covering the swim but apart from a small jack on a Squirrley Burt the swim went quiet. I now had to make a decision, do I head up or downstream so I decided to try downstream and cover two or three swims on my way, I caught from all three swims but nothing over 9lbs and I had seen no larger fish follow my lures or baits so I packed up and went for a walk about half a mile downstream to a swim that I had seen on google maps but never had time to try, the swim again was on an outside bend with a run of trees on my bank and a snag ridden slack on the far bank, the bait rod was placed upstream once again but I was snagged on my first cast, I managed to get the bait back so tried it further upstream only to get snagged once again, it was time to put the bait rod away and work the swim with lures.

Jerkbaits are great for working around snaggy swims because with a bit of thought you can keep the lure up in the water level just in sight and avoid any of the visible snags on the surface, I clipped the Cobbs Countdown on my trace and had a cast to where my bait had been snagged, the river was only a few feet deep so takes would be visible with the Polaroid’s on but the first few casts went un-noticed, my next cast was towards a horrible looking snag that had lure graveyard written all over it but it looked Pikey as hell so I cast almost to the bank behind the snag and quickly worked it up the edge and then along the front of the snag, just as the lure hit the flow of the river I saw a bow wave come from the snag, and a pike was quickly onto my lure but I was running out of line on my retrieve, the fish was making no attempt to take the lure but was directly on its tail so I swept the rod which makes the lure almost boil on the surface and the Pike hit it straight away and I was into a good fish, hallelujah! I had fetched my korum triangular bait net which is not too bad with lure hooks due to the rubberised mesh and although the fish gave a good account of itself close in I had her in the net on the second attempt. The moment your pulse rate gets back to normal and you look over the net at your prize and realise its a 20lber the world is always a better place, the unhooking was done in the water and after setting up the weigh sling and camera I did the weigh in and she pulled the scales around to 20lbs 14oz and I was made up, a lure caught river 20 in the snow, and I knew that the stretch still held better fish.

I was grinning from ear to ear all the way back to the car which was a bit of a slog even in freezing temperatures but at least it warmed me up, the gear was packed away and that would be my final trip of the season due to wife’s bad timing, giving birth to our first child poppy on the 1st of April cut my season short but if your going to miss fishing it may as well be for a reason like that.

I hope you enjoyed the long winded story and I hope to be back on the river this winter trying to find the larger fish from last season.

Tight lines and have a great season.

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?!