Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Full Circle

As the 2009/2010 season drew to a close I had hardly fished at all, missing the entire months of November, December and January due to the first lack of enthusiasm and motivation I had encountered during my time as a pike angler. A combination of work and personal issues had meant that after a couple of sessions early October,  it was mid February before I again wet a line and at this point I had an extremely modest season’s tally of just six pike under my belt from the handful of fishing sessions ventured upon. I wouldn’t have returned to angling at all that season had it not been for my new partner asking why I didn’t want to go any longer with a mountain of fishing gear in the garage and photo’s of pike all over the house. She pushed and pushed until I eventually agreed on a short session with her which resulted in a total blank.

We fished together a few more times on venues that had been kind to me in the past but things did not go too well. ‘It’s your sport I thought you knew what you were doing?’ She teased me, ‘you’re not very good at this’ was another comment which really only served to motivate me to prove her wrong.  Maybe she intended to have that effect all along?
One day I received a text informing me of a friend’s capture of a decent fish, as we were very close by, we went for a look and as we gazed upon a lovely 21lber I said to her ‘that’s what a big pike looks like’. ‘Is he a better angler than you’? She countered as we walked back to the car.

Monkey off my back
Enthused by the 20 we had just witnessed we returned home and grabbed some gear and visited the scene of my greatest moment in pike fishing some 6 years beforehand, for a short afternoon session.  Runs were forthcoming immediately but bizarrely the first four I somehow missed, striking into nothing, an affliction I had not often previously encountered. Whilst feeling slightly embarrassed I tried to explain that I really did know what I was doing, but must be a bit ‘ring rusty’. A few more barbed comments were delivered by my partner and as I look back I realise that it was first class banter, although it didn’t feel that way at the time.  Shortly afterwards, would you believe it? The 4th rod that I had made up for Lynda was away.  She made no mistake with her 1st fish of any description and soon a nice nine pounder was safely in the net.  As I am sure you can now imagine she found this quite amusing.  Salvation was to come for me however as shortly afterwards the float belonging to my left hand rod which I had cast some 10 yards upstream in the nearside margin suddenly appeared in front of me travelling at a rate of knots its view having been slightly obscured by our shelter, although I had been checking upon it every few minutes, the strike was met with a solid resistance and a short pike quickly came into view, it was drawn into the landing net, and upon trying to lift the net out of the water  it dawned on me I could have something a bit better than I had expected. A short but incredibly fat pike of trout water proportions was unhooked and weighed at 18lb 6oz! Result! The monkey was off my back.  Photographs were taken and we retired home for the evening.

At home basking in the warm glow that only a good pike capture gives, I formulated the plan for the following weekend which would be the last of the river season. Naturally a pre- dawn return to same spot was decided upon. It was the last Sunday of the season and four rods were cast into position in darkness.  As  the sun came up over the horizon on the far bank, I noticed that the water was far more coloured than it had been the week before.  I had in the past discovered that this spot had not fished well when the land drain upstream was discharging its contents into the river. It didn’t feel right and although over the years the area had been very kind to me, it was the last fishing day I had available that season and I didn’t want to waste it. We decided to pack away the gear and move toanother nearby venue.  This second venue looked spot on but after an hour or so no runs was forthcoming. 

I had over the previous few seasons been fishing a land drain some 10 miles away without a lot of success. I had caught fish and they had been of a good average size, all over 15lb in weight but captures were isolated and a lot of rod hours had been fished for each capture, my best from the venue weighed 19lb although a friend had caught a 21, and I suspected that the water held bigger pike. Fish were nomadic and long stretches of the 12 mile long drain seemed completely barren. I had in my possession however some photographs of fish to 26lb caught by other anglers from the water over the years, a stamp of fish I yearned to catch.

As we struggled for a run on this much easier water my thoughts turned to the drain, it was the last weekend of the season and we were blanking, knowing that a run if it were forthcoming it would more than likely be a jack or double at best, I began to feel that we should instead be on the drain, where a blank would be likely, but we were more likely to encounter a better stamp of fish should we be so fortunate as to receive a run. I consulted my partner and we agreed on another move to our third venue of the morning.
After the short drive we arrived at my favourite swim and I wasn’t surprised to find it vacant as the drain was not heavily fished and access not easy. I had previously negotiated an arrangement to park on private land, and had never before seen another angler in the area.

We set up and fished, after an hour or so had passed I heard a vehicle on the drove and shortly afterwards was surprised to see 4 men with rods climb over the floodbank, they asked me if I had caught and I truthfully replied nothing, I asked what they were fishing for and they informed me that they were fishing for anything but would happily give me some live baits if they caught anything. They then asked if any barbel were present in the water which amused me as they obviously had little knowledge of the fenland drains. They seemed quite rough, traveller types and bearing in mind that there were miles of unoccupied drain either side of me I was a little disappointed when they set up some 30 yards away. Unfortunately they were not very quiet and I started to get a little agitated with the intrusion to my peaceful morning.

Salvation was to shortly arrive in the form of a dog walker who approached my swim from the opposite direction to the anglers. He stopped for a quick chat, overlooking the anglers upstream of me and asked if they were foreign?  I replied that they were English and had only just arrived ,but they were making a racket and I was considering a move. He then informed me that he had earlier in the week whilst walking his dog seen an angler unhooking a pike weighing around 24lb in a swim some 400 yards downstream, and gave me a landmark for swim identification.

 I thanked him and after weighing up the move for all of about a micro second decided to leave our new found friends and had the rods and gear packed up and after wishing our neighbours the best of luck for their session began the walk downstream.
It was our fourth swim of the morning and it was now about 11.30 the sun was high in the sky and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was warm and I was sweating buckets on arrival, quickly tearing off my cold weather clothing and looking at the swim. The water in the drain was very clear and I considered that our chances were very slim. To the right of the swim in the nearside margin was a large overhanging tree, its branches were touching the water halfway across the water, and an amount of debris had collected up against the branches, it looked a good place for a pike to lie up.

I gently under-armed a half mackerel as close as I dare and was relieved to see the float and bait land unmolested by the spiders web of branches right under the canopy and in the exact spot I wished for. I then cast the other two rods into open water, one to the middle and the other to the far bank. All three rods were then clipped up to audible back biters and I made a mental note to myself that if one were to go I bet that it would be the one under the tree.

My other half and I then lay on the floodbank with the sun blazing directly on to us; it felt as though summer was just around the corner it was so warm and pleasant. She put her head on my chest and content with the world I began to dose and dream of the triumphant moment when I would finally catch a fish weighing over 20lb’s from this challenging water.
After a while a high pitched noise interrupted my peace, for a short while it seemed dreamlike before I realised this was no dream, the noise was for real and in a moment, without consideration for my partner I was on my feet to see that the float under the tree had disappeared and line was peeling off the spool. Aware of the potential for problems due to the branches and possible roots under the water I was on the rod in a flash and gave the fish maximum side strain to try and get her out from under the tree, the rod initially took on an alarming curve but the fish turned and was soon being played in open water. I caught sight of her in the clear water and remarked that I thought it was an upper double when suddenly the fish surged off with alarming power taking braid from the tightly set clutch.  And I thought to myself that perhaps she was a little bigger. The fish soon began to tire and was pulled into the net that Lynda had at the ready.  Lynda tried to lift the net from the water and couldn’t manage to.  At this moment I realised that surely I had my much longed for twenty from this water that I had struggled so much on. The net was indeed heavy, the pike was laid out on the unhooking mat and the trebles removed easily from her scissors.  She was then weighed and photographed. At 24lb 4oz she was at the time my second biggest Fenland pike, a feeling of pure elation swept over me, and there and then I asked Lynda if she would marry me? She agreed to but not until I had caught a pike weighing 30lb. My enthusiasm for fishing had returned, but unfortunately I had run out of season. Rather than wait and hope for the brace it seemed fitting that we should wrap things up at 13.00 and celebrate over a pint in a nearby pub whilst looking at the cased pike on the wall, a monument as to the waters former glories.

The fish I has caught actually matched up to a photograph that I had obtained of a 21lb 12oz pike caught earlier that season.  It was the smaller half of the brace caught by the angler, and I wondered if the 26lb fish that I also had a photograph of would perhaps fulfil my dream of a 30lb pike and my lady’s hand in marriage.

I was at the time blissfully unaware of how much better things would get over the next two seasons on the fishing front. The fish that was at the time my first twenty from the water is now my third biggest from the venue, and although I didn’t know it at the time it was to be the start of a very productive period for me on other waters too.
Did I keep my promise to Lynda? Well let’s just say I returned from the jewellers several hundred pounds lighter the following week! She seemed quite pleased when I said we would set a date when I catch my first 30, deep down I knew this might take many years to fulfil if at all, but I wanted to tempt fate.

The season came to a close, at a time when my motivation had returned in full.  My doubts about the venue, and Lynda’s regarding  my Pike fishing prowess, were both vanquished, but I was to have to wait until the following October before I could quench my now insatiable thirst for pike fishing, and quench it I did, but that’s another story.
At the time of writing having achieved my long dreamed of 30+ pike I look forward to my wedding in a month’s time.

Tying the Knot

Having been divorced once due to my love of pike fishing it seems quite fitting that I will soon me marrying for a second time with pike fishing having played a very significant and positive part.

Since the time of writing the previous paragraphs Lynda and I married on the 16th of August 2014 with several inspirational pike anglers also being present for the wedding. 
A moment shared
Much of my fishing time currently is spent with our young son Lucas who is showing much of his father’s enthusiasm.  I no longer yearn for the day of my first thirty, or indeed personal best. Preferring instead to concentrate on developing my young apprentice’s enthusiasm for the sport, I look forward to a time when he is desperate for his own pike fishing goals and they can be accomplished together as father and son.
After recounting this tale to a famous and accomplished pike angler on the banks of Chew Valley Lake he replied ‘The Lord works in mysterious way’s’.

Tight lines


Jonathon Myles

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A Fish Called Fred

My first outing of the unofficial Pike season, turned into one I will remember for many a season and not because I caught a notable fish or a PB, but because the pleasure of observation took over from the hunger of anticipation normally associated with a days long awaited piking.

With a disappointing pre season lure day on Rutland behind me, the urge to get into dead bait mode was strong, so for my season opener I decided to fish my local reservoir, local meaning less than a mile from my front door. I hadn’t fished the “Res” for a couple of seasons as the fish are generally small, although plentiful, but reckoned it would be an easy way to get in the swing of things. Albeit a trapped nerve in my shoulder was causing serious discomfort and had precluded me from driving to the PAC convention.

The “Res” is bisected by a causeway, which carries the local rail line, a tunnel joins the two areas of water and fish move freely between the two, albeit that each area of water is distinctly different in appearance, bottom, bank side vegetation and access.

The main "res" is a featureless basin with a sandy bottom and an odd mussel bed and 50% of the banking comprises of  steep pitching stones, with no tree cover and it can be a wild and inhospitable place in any other than a slight breeze. The “Little Res” however is totally different “kettle of fish” nice pun yeah?, immediate access from the roadside, with plenty of tree and bush cover on two sides, although the best pegs require packhorse and jungle skills to access.

I had spent the weeks through, September getting all my piking gear sorted and putting the kids bit bashing gear and my occasional carp gear to bed. I ventured onto the small “Res” the Sunday before ‘D’ day for a shakedown session, to be met with choking brambles, cow shit and had great difficulty negotiating the route round to the side of the “Res”.

The level was a good 3ft down and  much of the exposed bank was deep mud and the normal path overgrown and passable. After sinking in mud up to my knee, I finally staggered to the only accessible spot giving me access to an area of overhanging willows flank of the "Res". I had decided to take with me three rods rigged up for float ledgering – bad move. I quickly found that at the distance I wanted to fish towards the  willows that it was difficult see and gauge the floats satisfactorily so I quickly replaced the float rigs with ledger rigs and put two baits out a about 40 yards hard up against the willows at 9-10ft deep.

I ended up with two jacks and had another four runs which resulted in nothing,  The trapped nerve was proving painful and troublesome, but it was not going to get in the way of my ambitions. I packed up early afternoon as I had other things to do and contemplated a more organised “proper” session the following weekend – the first weekend of Pike season proper!

The following Saturday, I decided to make a recce, in anticipation of a Sunday session and ended up clearing most of the jungle of brambles or as much as one guy with a dickey shoulder, a pair of tree loppers and some secateurs could manage. Actually quiet impressed myself!

So Sunday morning is arrived, “The Bus”, a Peugeot 806,  already loaded with everything required and no more (3 dead bait rods). I passed the water in the dregs of darkness at circa 6.45am and proceeded a further ½ a mile to the local Maccy D’s for some breakfast.

A big u-turn and I am parked outside the gate to the small “Res” and all quiet except for the sound of birds and the bait fish breaking the surface on a still mirror of a surface.
Gear out of the bus and on the bank and two trips round to my spot, way much easier after my earlier jungle clearing activities.

By 8.00am I had three rods out with smelt, Joey and a large Mack after removing its head. Despite my best planning I’d forgotten to pack a towel "doh!" ,but had a pack of faithful baby wipes. I lent down at the waters edge to rinse of my hands and as I rose to upright, noticed a snout, a good double fish, as little as 12 inches from where my hands had been in 8 – 10” of water! As I rose in pleasant shock the fish turned and the water boiled, leaving cloud of slit where it had laid. The strange thing is all my rod rest where out in the water and I was paddling about whilst setting the backbiters and obviously was unconcerned.

For the next twenty minutes every time I moved I noticed a boil and muddy cloud a few feet from my toes and assumed old Pikey was quiet happy sitting at my feet. I rummaged in my bag for my Polaroid clip on's, as things began to brighten up and “Fred” as I will refer to him could be seen clear as day drifting in a out of the clear shallow patch at my feet. He looked a low double and I was gripped by this close encounter, shame my camera couldn’t see through the glare!

Some minutes later my left hand backbiter sounded and I hit a positive run, it was only a jack of about 6lbs but it gave a goods account of its self, as it came towards the net I noticed that Fred was sat there bold as brass at my feet, despite all the hullabaloo I was making. The jack tail walked as came in towards the net straight over Fred who just moved gracefully out of the way, but then turned and followed the jack to the net, for a split second I honestly thought I was going to net two fish.

Anyway the jack shed the hooks in the net, so it was quickly back into the water and Fred appeared to have moved off. Not more than three minutes passed and back he drifts into view, I toss the mackerel head that was lying next to me, a foot from the edge and the remains of shredded Joey from the encounter with the jack a further foot out. For the next hour Fred came and went and swam over the free offerings and seemingly totally disinterested. By this time I was focused on Fred’s comings and goings and the fishing seemed somehow less important.

A little Kingfisher was screeching is shrill song as it darted across the water and back and I started to think this is just awesome day on the bank, just me, nature, almost hidden from the main road, just a stones throw away.

 Out of the gloom a long shadow came into view heading for the Joey carcass, it glided by and swam straight through between the bank sticks holding my left hand rod, I was literally still as statue and holding my breath - non of this would have visible were it not for the Polaroid’s! Fred circled round again and headed right up to the Joey and with flared gill covers sucked in the Joey and chomped on it a couple of times before casually sauntering off.

I thought I’d had my time with Fred and smile to myself with deep satisfaction, but not fifteen minutes later and he was back! The Mack head had got washed right in to the edge so I slowed leaned down and picked it out , he didn’t flinch,  I tossed out in front of where I could see his snout. Sure enough maybe a minute later, he slowly moved towards the Mack head and again with flared gills took the Mack and gave it a good chomping, turned and moved out of sight. Surely this was goodbye Fred?

Moments later my right hand rod screamed off and I got out my chair and into the water to pick up the rod, as I did the middle rod went too! Shit I thought, I hit the first and felt a couple of thumps and then nothing, so put down the rod and hit the other, same again, two missed!!! Both baits were ok so I recast the first and set the alarm, I was about to cast out the other, when I noticed Fred not more than 3 ft from my toes, I hadn’t thought of trying to catch him, we’d become “close” as I was so engrossed in observing him and this unique (to me) prolonged close up behaviour.

With mixed feelings I succumbed to the urge and dropped the half herring bait, I was about to recast, no more than two feet from the edge in 10” of now somewhat cloudy water, although I could still see the odd shadow and fin manoeuvring. I had the rod in my hand with a big bow of slack line over the bait and almost immediately the line started to twitch and tighten, I hit it immediately and the rod curved in a big arc as the fish  powered off. It broke the surface, my heart pumping and at such close range I could see it was a fish of around 15lb, it gave one big shake of the head and fish and hooks parted. I was partly gutted and part feeling guilty for having hooked the guy I had been quietly feeding and observing.

I didn’t see Fred again during the session, although another free offering disappeared whilst I wasn’t paying attention! I almost felt relieved not now to be on tender hooks watching my old mate sniffing the toes of my muck boots, but to capped it all off , the Kingfisher later came and sat on the adjacent jetty and stayed there for a good fifteen minutes before I moved and flew off screeching. I kicked myself for not bringing a decent zoom camera, only the pocket canon for captures!!!

I packed up at 1.00pm having landed six jacks, lost another four before the net and had at least another six runs, but Fred was way uplifting than counting runs.

By the time I’d made two trips back the car the trapped nerve in my shoulder was pounding and I was in significant discomfort, the wife gave me no sympathy for going fishing, but I wouldn’t have missed such an awe filled morning no matter how much the pain.

Can’t wait for the next session, will take something special to beat today – more to fishing than just catching fish!

Pete Crisp Aka Crispy PAC.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Dave Horton - One Good Deed

I first shared this little tale through the pages of a small circulation Irish Piking magazine (An Luis) back in the early 2000’s?

I’m hoping then that few if any of you will have read it already and that it entertains you and fills a few minutes of your life’s as intended.

I don’t know if it’s the fact that I have Irish blood coursing through my veins (my father having been born and raised in Tipperary town) but the one place in this world that find myself most comfortable and at home in is Ireland.  For many years now I’ve nurtured a dream that sees me living somewhere on that beautiful Island and god willing one day I will!  Here and now though in the cold light of day and the stark reality of the present I live on a somewhat different Island surrounded by people with whom I find myself increasingly at odds with and the majority of whom I seemingly become ever more detached from.  Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the fact that the common denominator in all my conflicts is me and that I can be a difficult man but on the whole my brother man (and woman) disappoints me more often than not and even if I am able to recognise and (slowly) accept my own failings, it still doesn’t alter the fact that there are some who’s failings are yet greater!

Here then is a Piking tale that contains considerable good and just a little bad, that will I hope paint the picture more clearly to you of what I’m getting at. 

The story begins with me driving a couple of hundred miles across country in the dark, in order to get a reasonable nights kip on a mates couch (Les Moses) and wake just a short jaunt down to his local river in pursuit of the awesome Pike it held!  Forgive me for not naming the venue but even with this passage of time I’m mindful of treading on the toes belonging to those more local than myself.  Some if not all of you will work out the venue I’m referring to but at least I can say I didn’t tell you eh?

Previous ventures to the river had seen Les and I share multiple catches of BIG Pike, with his best going over 28lbs and mine just a pound less.  Confidence then was high especially when the river conditions were at their optimum best following flood conditions.

I’d first met Les (a good, good man) in the late 90’s when I’d been asked to give a presentation to his local region of the PAC.  Despite being well versed at giving these presentations I don’t mind admitting that I get a little anxious about giving them (few of us like public speaking?) especially if I attend on my own (please take note people I won’t be alone in feeling that way).  Anyways, there I was, stood anxiously in a room full of strangers, 150 miles from home in the late 90’s, when out of the crowd emerged  a stranger (Les) who was to become a friend for life with his warm words of welcome, a kind smile and a pint!

Les, he won’t mind me saying so, is a bit of a scally wag which meant we found common ground and empathy quickly.  Even before we shared great fishing and more than our share of bad times together we discovered that rare natural understanding from which lasting friendship grows.

Anyways back to the story.  It was about ten at night and a tired Horton decided to pull into a motorway service station for a refuel and a coffee.  Parking the car up near to the Services entrance, my headlights picked out a forlorn looking figure standing with an empty Petrol can in his hand.  Already starting to recognise an opportunity to help someone I wandered over and enquired if all was well with him?   “Not really.”  He started and proceeded to tell me how he was driving home in his Van and had realised he’d left his wallet at work and was on the brink of running out of fuel.  Could he perhaps borrow a fiver to get him to the next Services where he’d hopefully find another “generous soul”  who would maybe lend him another so that he might repeat the process until he made it home.  He would ofcourse take my name and address in order that he could mail me the fiver back if I were good enough to help him?  Blimey this was my lucky day I thought to myself!  This bloke really was up shit creak and I was in prime position to help him!  To cut a long story short I gave not the £5 he was asking for but the £30 he’s need in order to get home without stopping again and so that he wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of having to ask some other stranger to lend him some of their hard earned cash – I even bought him a coffee and a pastry (incidentally I’ve never ever bought myself a pastry from a motorway services because I wouldn’t justify the extortionate price of one  for myself – but when I asked him if he wanted anything it that which he pointed at and that which he got!) so that his little tummy might stop rumbling!  Feeling pretty good about myself, we shook hands warmly and parted company so that I might take a leak and he’d go fill his van up with diesel.

Needing fuel myself I figured I’d see him at the pump too.  Smiling to myself and humming “Everything is beautiful” I drove down to the petrol stn and was a little surprised not to see a van of any sort?  Certainly I’d been pretty quick and I doubted I’d missed him but somewhere deep inside me stirred an uneasy feeling.  NO!  I wouldn’t allow myself to think what I’d started to think and so I tried my best to shut it out!  The next couple of hours passed without event and eventually at about midnight I pulled up at Les’s place. “You’re a little later than expected?” he said and whilst making my apologies I related the tale of the poor fcuker I’d met at the motorway services and how I’d saved the day. Les smiled wryly, at the same time shaking his head and muttering as he left the room momentarily.  When he returned he furnished me with a local Newspaper already open on page 5 with the bold headline “Motorway Services Petrol Scam!”  I didn’t know wether to laugh or cry when I realised that the very plausible “Paul?” that I’d met some 100 miles or so earlier and had seemingly shown honest respect and gratitude to the simple but kind man that had pressed 3 crisp tenner’s into his hand and bought him a coffee and cake, had likely been little more than a confidence trickster!  Even faced with the mounting evidence I clung to some desperate hope that Paul would honour our verbal agreement, stop my already dwindling faith in humanity, restore my faith in myself for being able to judge the good and bad in my brother man and mail me the money he said he would to my place of work, the Fire Station.  NO NO NO!  I simply refused to accept that I’d been mugged!  I even tried to console myself with the fact that I’d done something that made me feel good, though I wasn’t sure I felt £30 good?   I slept very little that night and all too quickly morning was upon us with the ever cheery Les enthusiastically waking me to begin the assault!

A hearty breakfast (Les always looks after me) and we were on our way.  As luck would have it another factor Les and I found in common is that we both abhor early starts so it was gone eight before we were at waterside and ready to launch the 10ft Ally boat we were to fish from.

The river was in fine fettle and was just as Les had predicted, only just becoming fishable after being in flood for the best part of the winter.  Previous experience had proven this to be just about the optimum time to fish for the rivers Pike.  Today that would simply be re-affirmed! 

Les had in the past been a bit of Salmon ghillie and was first class at positioning a boat in the most appropriate position to get the most from a swim.  The “plan” was to drift along one of the margins and take it in turns to cast a bait to “Pikey” looking spots.   Lives and deads, cast into every nook and cranny, invariably solicit a rapid response from any Pike that have taken up residence there and had proven to be very productive on previous trips.

We had only been fishing perhaps 15 mins and had presented baits in maybe 4 or 5 swims when we happened upon the first really horny looking one.  We were taking it in turns to cast our baits into these often quite restricted swims and it was Les’s turn to fish this particularly small one.  A perfectly positioned under arm plop saw les’s half pound bait land exactly where he wanted it and within seconds it was taken.  The spirtited fight that ensued resulted in a fine looking fishing of about 18 lbs.  Several hundred yards and half an hour or so later we came upon a slack that was large enough for us both to fish.  I dropped the anchor and we both swung our baits out to fish perhaps 10 yards apart.  We had simultaneous takes, with mine being a tiddler that was easily dealt with.  Les though was into a much better fish that was taking line as it headed upstream of our position.  I’d just dropped my jack back in when I witnessed Les’s BIG fish turn beneath the boat and throw the hooks!  A few quick words of consolation were offered whilst we both quickly hooked fresh baits on and got them back out into the slack again.  My bait reached the tail end of the slack first and “plopped” under!

The fight was similar, the outcome different as minutes later we were weighing our first 20 of the day!  A great start at 24lbs and we’d only been out an hour.  I’d love to say that the action was fast and furious but in truth it wasn’t and rarely is on this particular venue.  In fact you can fish dozens of great looking swims and hundreds of yards on this river and not get a sniff of a Pike and today was a case in point.   It was then a couple of miles and quite a few hours later that we encountered our next BIG Pike with just a jack a piece to each of us in between.

As luck would have it, it was my turn to drop a bait into this swim and as is usually the case, if a Pike is present, the 6oz (the baits were getting smaller) Roach was taken pretty much immediately.  I wound down hard and the rod wrenched in my hands as an obviously BIG Pike gave it best for the initial few seconds before being bullied back towards the boat.  It was all over in a flash as the bait came flying back in a sorry looking state for me to examine. The teeth marks were BIG and I felt the despair only a fisherman who’s lost a whacker does!

The swim required a better look so we dropped the anchor and both got our baits ready.  Decent baits were running out so I mounted a dead one of about a pound whilst Les stayed with his more moderate live one and we both got them out into the slack.  Both our baits made it unmolested to the end of the slack but as I rapidly retrieved mine in order to clear Les’s line, it was engulfed in a BIG swirl.  This fish, like all her sister’s on this river fought like a Demon and set off upstream at a rate of knots against a not inconsiderable flow!  This time the hooks held and after the initial surge another mid 20lbs fish was bullied into the net.  A little BIGGER than the earlier one this fish weighed in at 25lbs 4oz (interestingly this fish had appeared in one of the Angling papers some months earlier at a claimed weight of 32lbs and had been one I’d hoped I’d bump into) and was ofcourse my 2nd twenty of the day.  

A few quick shots and a happy Horton sat back to take it all in.  I had a move in mind but Les had other ideas and what’s more he had my best interests at heart too!  “You cast out again Dave I think there might have been two different fish down there?”  Les offered.  Well, I have to admit I was convinced that both takes had come from the same fish and also it should have been Les that was putting a bait through the swim.  Les though was having none of it and went on the explain his reasoning.  “Go on Dave you might catch a third 20 and after last night events I’d like to see that!”  With that I quickly hooked one of the remaining little live baits back to the head of the slack.  God it’s good to be wrong at times!  The take was a carbon copy of the first and the fight just as spectacular but the weight was better still!  At 26lbs this was our last fish of the day and still remains one of my favourite days fishing ever.

I’d love to finish on a high note but sadly I can’t for as I’m sure you’re probably guessed already? Old muggings here never did see his £30 quid again. Would I do the same again? Yes I most certainly would (and have) for I genuinely believe in the old adage “one good deed deserves another” (fortunately so it seems does Les) and I live in the belief that for every snake of a human there is out there, there’s at least one good man to balance them out?

Dave Horton

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Is this what its come to?

Is this what its come to? Are other areas of the land experiencing the same levels of wanton destruction and ruin of once beautiful and peaceful pike fishing locations? My own favourite water which I have fished for the last 27 years is almost a no go zone now. 

Weekend trips to this highland loch for me are now a thing of the past due to the moronic element who now frequent the place. I’d love to say that they are campers or dare I say trouties, but the sad fact is most of them are pike anglers and I use that term very loosely. And by my reckoning 99% of them are my fellow countrymen. They are at most guys who are having a jolly weekend away, cheap tents, lots of booze, inadequate tackle, inadequate experience and as you can see no regards whatsoever for others around them or the land they are on. Recently the chap who posted these photographs on a facebook page (I will have a rant about this later) was contacted by my joint RO of the Glasgow region to offer some assistance to try and curb this behaviour. 
The good folk in charge of this loch run a pay on the bank system for permits and we have asked if they would entertain the idea of giving out flyers (which we offered to help write up for them)  when collecting permit monies, outlining the rules of the water and what pike tackle is required to fish there, also the idea of placing permanent notices at access points around the loch has been forwarded to them and that we would gladly help out. I can only hope that something can be done as it really can’t continue as is. Now on to the fishing aspect of the water. Sad sights as in the photograph are all too common nowadays, and who is to blame? The pike in the pic is just under 20 lbs and why was it found like this? Was it killed by the fools who reckon that the cheap, buy it now pike set ups that you can buy for pennies are fine to use? Because “Yeh the guy in the shop says thats all I need” Are these shops going the extra step to ask if the folk buying these kits have any of the other essential pieces of tackle needed? Forceps, Side cutters, Nets, unhooking mats etc? And if they are not asking this, why not? Because it must be glaringly apparent that these folk are probably new to pike fishing. I, like many others have seen it all, from the runs that last 10 minutes whilst the guy is lying sleeping in the bivvy to the olde favourite of letting the 2nd run develop to help hook the fish. I had a run in with a group of guys who after netting a nice double proceeded to dump it on the bank and with boot on the pikes head try and rip the trace out. When I got there and unhooked it I asked what they were doing and I got “ I aint putting my hand in there, have you seen the feckin teeth on that” my answer was simple “Then why the feck are you fishing for them?” Now by my thinking it is not solely newcomers causing the troubles cos I’ve lost count of the amount of decent home made traces I’ve had to remove from fish, simply because the hooks are a bit deep. We all know that we shouldnt be deep hooking pike but with the best of intentions it does happen at times, but if any pikers who dont know how to deal with the situation please have a long hard look at your bite indication, go with someone who knows how to do it or simply stay at home. 
My joint RO joint recently had 2 fish with traces cut off in them, not stomach hooked, merely at the back of the throat. Did the guys who caught them not have any long forceps? My mate had a 19 lber from the same water with 3, yes 3 traces in her stomach, all with the swivel cut off? Thankfully we were able to remove them and after a nice long recovery swam off strongly. So we now have the camping ban on Lomond, we have a Trossachs water which used to have great fishing on it, and is now more or less ignored by most of the decent pikers that used to fish it all because of the numpties or as they are known up here, Jimmies or Noddies. Where does it stop? When will it stop? Where do we draw the line? And what can we do? We can help by keeping an eye out, note car numbers down, phone and report these folk to bailiffs and police, help keep the waters tidy by cleaning up not only our mess but any others left around, I know we shouldnt have to but any little helps. Which brings me nicely on to a bugbear of mine, Pike Facebook Pages. Now not all of them are bad, some have decent chaps running them and try and stamp out or educate the noddy element. We all know them, beachcaster or spinning rod on one rest , golf ball on a hook hanging from the line as an indicator, putting up photos of nice fish ,standing up over nice sharp rocks with fish held in one hand. I used to leave a polite reply along the lines of “nice fish mate but maybe a good idea to hold the fish low down with both hands, oh and invest in a mat when you can” this usually gets the reply of “who do you think you are? The pikin polis?” Well yes,if that what you want to think then  I am, I am a pikin polis as we all should be cos its a battle that needs to be fought every time we encounter it. Finally on to my all time favourite facebook rants. Naming waters, swims, showing photos of exact locations etc. When AGAIN pointing out the downfall of this practise the usual response is “ I dont see the problem ,everybody knows about it anyway” yes of course eveyone knows , but by broadcasting it and putting photos up it just highlights the fact that it is fishing well and lo and behold more Jimmies and Noddies appear to add more unwanted pressure on the fish we all know and cherish, they just don’t seem to grasp this simple fact. I am often asked why the PAC? What do they do for me? My thinking is rather than look for what I get from them is to what I can do for them, and just hope that maybe just one of my rants, fights, swearing at folk on forums might just sink in and make them think. Both PAC and PAAS are fighting the battle to keep our sport and dreams alive, and I for one thank them for it.

Ok, rants over, deeep breath and relax. So is it all doom and gloom up here? I’d say no, there are still plenty of beautiful waters, off the beaten track places, places that may require a long drive but are worthwhile for the sheer majestic unspoiled lochs which Scotland is famous for. There is still good fishing to be had in these places, our region (RA105) although a small membership has done reasonably well since the start of the year with over a dozen 20s caught and 2 members finally getting their 1st 20 after years of trying ,especially Rab Allen . I think he has been after one for 103 years :-) They are out there. So after all this , is it still worthwhile to have a wee jaunt up here? Nope, stay away, no pike left, its a total waste of time.................
John Evans

Friday, 5 September 2014

Black & White & Fuzzy Edges

In a world of increasing unrest and increasing uncertainty there has to be a pressure cooker release valve for us individuals who seek one. The overcrowded nature of things could drive me to drink and drugs while reading and listening to the world order of stuff. A dorsal fin breaking water, a mass of bubbles, the big splash in the distance and resulting water rings breaking the oily calm. The sound of running water in and around your feet or surrounding the beam of the angler’s boat. The sounds of early morning and late evening as all around us comes alive, oblivious to the angler hidden and nested awaiting for the float to bury or the tip of rod to bounce or even that horrible man made shriek of electronic  alarm.

Big fish or little fish, swimming in the water are oblivious to the world order of things. But perhaps the predator underwater world order is only majorly disturbed by other predators. Otters have certainly disturbed the natural order of things though their unnatural and fast spread across our inland waterways during the last ten short years. Any self respecting big pike will need to adapt to avoid an otter out running and out gunning our pikes natural short burst of speed. I hang on to the hope that the senses of our pike can smell the oily otter territory and holt or at least be on red alert when the danger of this critter is close. When roving the banks of my rivers I always look out for otter droppings, these are often left on the overhanging base stumps of willow trees and are green/brown and often a bit shiny in appearance when fresh. If you really feel inclined to test their freshness, have a sniff and they smell just like a fishmeal carp boilee. It’s worth a look out as fresh droppings equal zero pike on that bank and you are completely wasting valuable fishing time in the area. I know of a water with a population of otters surrounding a big pike. This pike has amazed me with her ability to still be around, she has been seen this summer alive and kicking and I’ll not be disturbing her as she has enough to worry about without the man made disturbance of capture and a day or two sulky recovery from lactic acid overload and tooth ache to add to her surrounding vulnerability.

I kinda have a love/hate relationship with cormorants. There do appear to be less of them around on the waters I fish, than say 15 years ago. I well remember watching a group of around thirty of them feeding one early morning on a welsh river. Up and down they dived, feeding in formation and more often than not surfacing with a decent dace to be gulped down quick smart before diving again. As an angler it was heart breaking to watch. After having their fill, during an hour of feeding I wondered how in the aviation world of mechanics and design they actually managed to get off the water and fly back to their favored white, self excrement covered branches. The first year that Chew opened up for us, in fact on the second day, Big Dave and I lost count at three hundred cormorants up in the trees on Denny Island as we headed towards Stratford. Our hearts sank, we’d seen this during the early 90’s on our local Chichester pits where a decent pike would be a big double looking like lizard thing. How wrong we were, over 100x20’s came out on Chew that day and all as fat as you like!  These days they are still around on the rivers I fish, but more often than not feeding solo or in two’s. Perhaps a couple of generations of cormorant bother has seen the DNA of prey fish coping with the big group feeding of the cormorant and the big black oily bird has adapted by feeding more solo or moved back to improving in-shore waters. These birds certainly give us a pointer towards prey fish location and I’ve often moved sticks to areas where I have seen cormorants feeding and found pike and in particular zander not too far away.

Talking about improving waters, across all the different rivers I fish, fry survival has been great over the past ten years. Silver fish populations have fared pretty well as the match weights demonstrate or my own cack handed bait snatching sessions prove. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the well published demise of our eel population has contributed greatly to this. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s eel bother when fishing was all part of the game. I can well recall having to pack up barbel fishing on many a sultry summers evening with swims a heaving mass of the wriggly things. Having plenty of eel sections in the bait freezer was taken for granted back then. A mass of eels will have had their fill of eggs on the shallow spawning grounds of our rivers, keeping fry survival low in tandem with large groups of cormorant feeding. In 1999 I reported to the EA that I’d seen hundreds of dead eels rotting on the bottom of the welsh river on a close season canoe paddle trip. The old bailiff on the Royalty had reported the same on the Hants Avon. Something bad was obviously occurring to mature eel populations and a few years forward the eel was in real danger, or so we were told. Bang ! , last year saw the biggest reported elver populations on my rivers for a couple of generations. I witnessed the amazing sight of 10,000’s of elvers running up a small feeder river close to my home, the small bridge where they could be seen in elver soup became a local viewing attraction for a few days. This year eel bother during zander fishing has become the norm again, so not only have the elver population returned big time but the more mature bootlace – 2lb eel population have appeared again too. Interesting and I’ve not a scooby doo idea as to why. I kind of expect fry survival to demise again over the next ten years in tandem with increasing eel numbers, hopefully some decent big river roach fishing will result as good current populations thin out and get bigger. Decent big river roach fishing has been very scarce for a decade or more so I look forward to that very much in the future as my bones get older and a nice comfortable roach swim will be the order of the day. It’s all about cycles and the anglers who have been kicking around for a good while, year in year out, will get a feel of what is happening on their waters and take advantage of the tip of the cycles for whatever species are at their peak sizes.

Apart from mankind’s ability to effect water quality, the biggest predator with an influence is naturally us the angler. For all the repeat captures reported there are equal losses from poor angling practices, handling and fish ending up in  Tesco carrier bags and as we know our quarry ain't no carp in the ability to survive and thrive on human intervention. Angling pressure in my experience does affect fish behavior and I’ve never agreed with the pike anglers who state pike catching is all down to times and moon phase. Natures push and pull obviously has a big influence and we all know there are windows of time when everything comes together perfectly allowing fish to be caught fairly easily when they are directly in front of us and that fact is not exclusive to predator fishing. Too many times however I’ve seen pressurized fish follow and worry decent live baits and not grab them, when on the very same day in a different place the float would be buried time after time with fish on the mat the end result. It’s no coincidence that at the end of the pike dates on Chew many of us report dropped pick- ups that three or four weeks earlier would likely have resulted in a fish on the boat mat. It’s during these pressurized more finicky times when blending into the background becomes important. Not joining the carp world completely in the disguise of rig and line but thinking about what may be seen underwater by a big fish that has seen it all in the past should be a consideration. There’s nothing more finicky than zander at the best of times, add a dose of angling pressure and converting pick-ups becomes an even greater headache. I’ve always believed that these really big predators in our natural waters are the Queens of their domain and no happening or event underwater escapes their senses. They haven’t survived and grown on to a great size over a decade or more without being in some way smarter than their surrounding compatriots. Perhaps it is luck, if that is the case, they certainly make their own luck. Stealth on the bank and equally on the boat can be the difference between a blank day or driving home with a smile on your face. Too many anglers are too ferking noisy for my likening and I’ll often shout over and tell them so before upping sticks and moving on!  Disturbing the peace should be a red card offence and the noisy angler banned for a month, with repeat offenders sentenced to a life of fishing any old puddle full of stunted F1’s. 

Thanks for reading my scribble and Play Up Pompey !

Friday, 29 August 2014

Targets, milestones and a deformed carp

Last season (2013-14) was a good season for me, I reached some targets I had been aiming for, caught fish from new venues and generally enjoyed the winter campaign.

My season though did start off slowly, October was the hardest fishing I had experienced that time of year with just four fish coming my way, a poor return for the effort put in. 
I had become jaded with fishing my same old venues and new ones had to be sought out, and this is where I owe a huge amount of gratitude to both Denis Moules and Jonno Myles let me explain. I had my eye on a drain out in the middle of nowhere for a while, but apart from the odd chuck with a lure I hadn't really fished it, and on the odd occasion I had looked at it, it looked uninspiring with no signs of life. However, after talking to both Den and Jonno, it transpired it was worth fishing, so mid November saw me making my way over for my first proper go on the place.
I had planned to only fish the morning and then go else where in the afternoon. Upon arrival the sun was just starting to creep up and the sky was fire red, it really did look like a scene from lord of the rings. There was a nice breeze blowing down the drain putting a nice ripple on the slightly coloured water, but the drain had been pumped off, still my hopes where high, a quick cast around found 3-4 foot of water, so out went three baits; a sardine, a bluey and a herring.
The first action arrived after about 15 minutes, a bloody swan giving me nice clip out take, after recasting I sat back down only for the recast bait to be on the move again and a low double was the culprit, a good start I thought. Things went quiet then after, so I then slowly moved down the drain, and not long after moving my half bluey was off and a nice, immaculate mid double was landed.

A quick picture was fired off and back she went and I recast, not long after recasting the bluey was away again and upon striking I knew it was a better fish, the fight though was unspectacular and soon a large framed pike was in the net, scrambling up the bank I had a feeling the fish was going to be close to twenty, luckily the scales confirmed she was well over twenty coming in at a shade under 23lbs, pictures done and she was released (more of this fish later), another mid double completed my morning on the drain and |I left knowing I would be back. The afternoon was much quieter but right on darkness a brace of mid doubles completed a fantastic day.

November was a turning point in my season where fish started to come with some regularity and it was nice to get back into catching pike after a summer of carp and bass fishing.

As we edged into December I had a look back through my fishing records, though I only record pike over 10lbs and I noticed that I was getting ever closer to one hundred doubles in 2013 so decided for the rest of the month to push myself to try and achieve this, though numbers are not important to me it is nice to hit little milestones like this. Anyway despite a lot of effort put in, I finished up just short on ninety seven, not that I was complaining, it had been a fantastic year.
At the turn of the year another milestone crept into view, one which I was desperate to reach, as it stood I was on seventeen, twenty pound plus pike and I was thinking that maybe making it to twenty, twenties was a realistic target for the remaining part of the season.
January started off well with a few nice doubles coming my way, including a couple from a new estate lake I tried, I also managed to add another twenty to my list, so it was a case of one down, two more required to reach my goal.
February started off much the same as January, plenty of doubles coming to my rods up to 19lbs, so bloody close I thought but not quite close enough. It was the end of February and I hadn't managed to add another twenty to my list and was starting to think it would be next season that my target was reached, but on my last trip of the month the only run of the day turned out to be my nineteenth twenty, its back on I thought.

March I have always found to be a strange month for piking, sometimes it was be fantastic and at other times it can be dam infuriating, specially if you can see the pike and they steadfastly refuse the bait. Anyway March found me back down the drain where I visited in November, it was bloody cold, the drain was very, very low, my baits sitting in about 2 and a half feet of water, today I had bought a bucket of lives with me and I'm glad I did as the float on my ledgered live bait rod indicated the tell tale sign of a take, line out the clip and a swift strike and I knew it was a big fish, after a lot of plodding up and down the drain the fish was soon beaten and into the net she went, I instantly recognized the fish, it was my twenty from back in November, and it had been only a couple of weeks since I had last seen her on the bank, that time to someone else. I therefore knew she was still over twenty so didn't bother putting her through the stress of weighing or photographing, I unhooked her in the net in the water and then let her go. It then dawned on me I had reached my target, it had been a truly brilliant season.

The river season ended and my mind instantly turned to some gravel pit piking while it was still cold enough, however I only had until the end of March to fish the pit, the wildlife trust where now enforcing the rule that the lake closed to anglers on the last day of March to allow the birds to nest in peace, though they still allowed jet and water skiers on, with the huge wake the create washing away many nests was quite frankly ludicrous, but that was out of my hands.
A few fish came my way upto 17lbs which seems to be about the ceiling weight for the fish in the venue, I was hoping to snare a bigger fish before they spawned, but alas that didn't happen. The end of March came and that was it, a fence was erected to stop anglers accessing the lake and we could only watch on as the jet skiers caused havoc on the place.
April was spent mostly on the north Norfolk coast bass fishing, something that I have started to enjoy, there where a few trips to an estate lake thrown in after the pike but all was quiet on the front and only a low double was caught.

Into May the bass fishing finally started to pick up and a few decent fish started to come my way, fish upto 3lb where caught and though not big by national standards it was a new PB for me, and then a new species of sea fish appeared for me in the shape on both common smoothhound and starry smoothhound, these fish certainly give a good bite, the rod literally folding in half as they move of with the bait and then, once you get them close in really go for it in the breaking waves, you really do have to be aware and I was pulled off balance by them during the fight such is the power they have.

Into June and carp started to occupy my mind so I decided to use my redundancy money to join a new lake just down the road from me in which I had seen some big carp when I had walked around it only a few days before. The first day was roasting hot, I didn't have a lot of confidence, not being a carp angler, not knowing a lot about the lake, and having as it transpired shit bait meant that the odds where firmly stacked against me. Around early afternoon I was thinking of packing in, I hadn't caught, I was getting severely sunburnt and I wasn't enjoying it to much, at that moment my micron screamed off and a carp had been daft enough to hang itself on the end of my rig, due to the weed I had to fish a fairly tight clutch to try and stop the burying itself in the weed, as it happens with the fish that I was attached to it was necessary to fish tight as rather predictably my carp had to be deformed to such an extent I was surprised it could even swim! That explained the lack of fight, I'm sure it spun in the water when I was reeling it in. Still a carp was a carp and at about 16lb it wasn't a bad first fish, later in the day I added another of a similar size, though at least the second one resembled a carp! A few more carp came along over the next few visits, including my bloody deformed one again, but it was starting to get a bit to predictable for my liking, and with the river season just starting my minds was turning to a zed or two.

I hadn't caught a zander off the fens since August 2012, despite putting many hours in for them during the summer and autumn of 2013, runless blank followed runless blank that season and I could work it out, but I started the new season with optimism, the first trip though ended in a blank, as did the second and the third and I was starting to get the feeling of deja vu. On the fourth trip things got off to a bad start, we couldn't catch any bait, and then it tipped it down and we where soaked through immediately, bloody summer showers. We managed to somehow fluke a few skimmers and rudd so off we went, half way to our intended spot I changed my mind, I had a feeling about another spot and after a quick detour and neatly having a head on with a tractor with arrived to find it deserted, good we thought. Out went the baits and that's when it started, beep.....beep.beep....beeeeeeeep.....strike.....fucking eels! Over and over again this happened and my 11.30pm I was sick of it a ready to go home......Beep......Beeep...Beeeeep...fuck sake I thought I was so annoyed I wandered to the rod, line was out of the clip, baitrunner was going in fits and bursts, another bloody bootlace...pick up the rod and start reeling in, I just winched in whatever was on the end, I didn't know what it was until in the glow of the headlight when a large looking zander appeared next to me fe'et, I went into panic mode, the fish was just on one treble right on the end of the mouth, my mate wasn't ready with the net and I was sure it was going to come off, it looked big in the water and I had already accepted its escape. God smiled on me though and the treble somehow stayed in and a quick scoop with the net and she was ours. We gave her a breather in the net and then weighed a photographed her, she came in at just under 9lb but looked all the world like she was bigger, though she was quite empty. We slipped her back and job was done, nearly two years since my last fen zander and I was over the moon.

The last few weeks have been quiet on the fishing front for me, a few more carp have been caught but the zander are playing their usual hard to catch selves, though I didn't fish for them during the really hot spell so trips have been very limited.

Now its just time to start preparing for my winter pike campaign, bait has started to trickle into the freezer, new waters have been marked on maps for exploration and already one new drain has been lure fished and confirmed pike are present, new job started, car bought so now its just waiting for the weather to turn.

Tight lines all for this winter.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Life Changing & New Beginnings

It all started back in the early 90’s at about the age of 8 when I saw some minnows in a small burn in Blantyre where I grew up. Computers to me were nothing more than the old Sagas and the Internet was not even known to us, we climbed trees and went on adventures.

Not knowing anything about fishing and having a pretty useless father who didn’t teach me any of this, I came up with the idea that a bit of old wood and the thinnest bit of gut from an old guitar nailed on to the end would be a good way to start.
Being pretty proud of my accomplishment (I loved making crazy useless crap out of other useless crap I could find as a kid) I headed down to this little burn with my homemade minnow catcher and some bread, I quickly realising I needed hooks.  A quick granny knot on the end with a bit of bread pinched on would have to do, I suppose I thought the knot would act as a sort of gorge rig, not that I knew about gorge rigs but it’s funny how our minds work like that.

I was later gratified by my inventive little mind as a minnow clamped on to the bread and as I lifted it out of the water, still hung on to the bread, but every one of them soon fell off before I could grab it. Still, I was pleased with the result, but soon got bored of it and it wasn’t till a few years later that I saw a white Shakespeare starter kit in a corner shop window. I begged my Mum for it and she eventually gave in a few weeks later.

With the new starter kit in hand and not a scooby of how to use it I headed down to the weir at the David Livingstone memorial park.

I met a few people who gave me pointers, but looking back now I think they knew just about as much as I did at the time. They said “just cast out the trebles the flash from it might get you a pike” so that’s what I did, with no bait I might add.

As expected I did not catch anything and casting out just a single treble attached to what might have been 8lb mono was, well, pathetic to say the least.
Someone told me I needed lead weights which were not included in the starter kit. Now remember I said I like making stuff ?
Well I wouldn’t recommend this even to adults never mind a 10 year old! But I managed to find those balance weights from car tyres, but that wasn’t good enough that I had found them, I didn’t ‘Make them’.
So I went back home, looked in my box of junk and found one of those little metal football keyrings. I pulled it apart and filled one with little pieces of lead and preceded to fire up my Dad’s camping stove.
So now I have a lump of lead, but how do I attach this to the line, I know, I'll hammer a nail through it to make a hole.

The next day I headed out with my lead weight and starter kit with a treble. It wasn’t long before it got snagged and I lost my entire rig. Fed up with that I resorted to catching frogs in one of the stagnant puddles near the weir.

When I got home with my new pet I figured he needed a pond so I dug a hole in the back garden, lined it with bin bags which were held in place around the edge with bricks and filled it with water. My Mum was not pleased at all but she just had to live with it as that’s how I rolled back then.

A few days later I went out to find the frog, but it had gone and my Uncle thought it a good idea to joke that he'd seen him pack his bags and hop away saying he wanted a bigger house, twat.

A week later I was made to tidy the back garden and to my horror found my little frog, disemboweled I assumed by Jock who cut the grass a few days before.
By that time I had totally given up on the fishing until another few years later my Mum thought it was a good idea for my brother to take me down to the Clyde for an overnight camping/fishing session.

Really wishing she hadn’t, as my brother, a teenager now with other ideas on his mind (boozing) as it was, it one of the worst experiences of my life he was so pished he knocked over the stove and frying pan, which saw the sausages rolling all over the sand, no way was I eating that!
I thought it best just to go into the tent and try to make it through to the next morning. Morning came and I was glad to be getting the hell out of there, but before we went home we tried another bit of the river and my brother caught a small eel.
Me being a bit of a weird child took it home, it had died, but that didn’t matter it was a cool looking thing and it stayed in the back garden until my mum got mad and told me to get rid of it.
So that was it, I was scared of fishing for about 10 years thanks to my brother.

In 2000 we moved to Glasgow and at the time it didn’t occur to me to try and fish the Forth & Clyde canal that could be seen from the kitchen window.

With no job prospects I took to keeping myself entertained by drinking, which promptly became a problem. I would drink almost every day and stay on the old yahoo chat rooms annoying people and writing software to interfere with the chat protocol and crash peoples computers, It was crazy, the buzz you would get from making about 40 peoples computer freeze and crash was hilarious, even funnier was seeing them all return wondering what had happened.

By 2005 the drink problem had got considerably worse and the last straw was after drinking two and a half bottles of buckfast and not remembering anything apart from the odd flash back now and again of trashing the house, enough was enough.
I looked out of the kitchen window in deep thought and looked at the canal and thought to myself “I need to get out of this house, I need to do something, these four walls are driving me crazy, if I don’t, I'll end up killing myself."

Armed with the Internet, I searched for information and all the terminology I then found a forum called "Anglersnet", but my first post is laughable at best as I truly didn’t have a clue.
One thing I chuckle about now is this comment I made on my first post “I'm not fussy what fish I catch as long as its not pike”
It was on that forum that I met my best friend and fishing buddy Andrew Macfarlane who kindly offered to accompany me to the Glasgow Angling Centre to get me kitted out and we managed it with £100. Andy picked out a £30 float rod and a £25 reel,  hooks, split shot, floats, 4lb sensor line.
We left the angling centre and headed to the canal, Andy showed me how to setup a basic float rig and I promptly caught my first ever roach of about 2oz and it was named Fred, I'll never forget that little roach.

Many joyful years passed with me and Andy fishing side by side in all conditions and locations. The fishing had changed me so much that I even landed a job in a letting agents which got me through my driving test and got me a car. The fishing opportunities that gave me and Andy were brilliant and we went all over the place. I lost weight and life was looking good.
I slowly progressed my way up the angling ranks to start fishing for pike with Andy as my mentor; this was a big difference from the little roach and perch that I had been catching.
It was a few years, me and Andy had been friends before he felt I was ready for pike and I'm grateful for this and I firmly believe this is how everyone should do it (start small).

At first Andy thought it best to start me off with a spinning outfit and take it from there. He took me to one of the local ressies. I blanked the first few times, but Andy caught a few wee pike and showed me how to handle them.

The funniest memory of this was the first pike he showed me how to chin. It was a jack of about 2lb and Andy was showing me where to put my fingers under the gill plate taking care not to go under the rakers. I asked Andy “so where does yer finger go” and as he pointed in the pike's mouth, it clamped down on Andy’s finger. I could hear him mutter “please don’t move please don’t move” but as can be expected it did move and quite vigorously too leaving his finger in an awful mess.

Stupid cnut.

Not long after, I managed to land my very first pike on my own which fell to a shad, it was only about 10-12lb but my god I was buzzing, I was howling like a nutter with so much adrenaline pumping through my body, this pike was so determined to get away. I'm just glad no one was around to hear me whoopin n hollerin.

I can’t remember now how long it was until we eventually went to one of Andy’s favourite waters for big pike, but by that time I was armed with a 3lb tc rod, alarms, droppers, 50lb braid etc.
It was then that I caught my first 20lb pike. In all fairness I really shouldn’t have caught it as I was meant to be working that day.

Andy had called me the night before saying him and Andy (yes 3 Andy’s) had spent the night there and they had been catching a lot of nice double figure pike and they could really do with something to eat.
I went to Greggs in the morning and got them a ton of rolls, crisps, drinks. I grabbed my rod and pulled a sicky and went to Loch X.

It was about 6 or 7 hours before I got a bite but feck me what a bite. I played this 20lb’er for what felt like an eternity. It didn’t have much depth to play in so all it could do was go straight ahead at full speed, to say it looked like a torpedo was an understatement it fought so hard I could barely keep hold of the rod so Andy suggested I stick the butt on my hip. Eventually it gave up the fight and was banked, weighed, photographed and returned.

This pike has been my crowning achievement and it’s been hard to beat but I’ve come close a few times with a 17 and an 18 from the same water but I doubt my next twenty will ever be as memorable as my first.

I have since fallen away from pike fishing to concentrate more on tench and carp but come this October I’ll be hard at them again and hoping to beat my PB.

In 2012, Andy told me about The Pikers Pit and I thought this sounds right up my street so I registered and kinda fell away from it but then started reading again in 2013 and tried to contribute. It was then that Ben (Forum Father) needed some help moving to the new server and since then I've found myself a new angling family. I was getting fed up of forums where you had to bite your tongue for fear of a ban, but you lot are wonderful and while chat can get heated and strong words spoken, we don’t get all hung up on it.

So to sum things up, angling has given me so much in such a short space of time. It has changed me for the better; it is in my blood, and in my thoughts every waking moment, it gave me back my confidence and made me sociable, it has saved my life and I am grateful.

I have seen some spectacular scenery and awe inspiring events, I remember the 40-60ft high whirl wind sucking up water as it travelled across a loch, fog rolling across the mountains to settle on the surface as the sun rises with intense ambient gold and red.

At times it’s been grim and dangerous such as when Andy got stuck in deep silt at HarelawHenrys Snypes dam and the time the weather has been so horrible you wondered “why” whilst clinging to a brolly soaked to the bone and through all that, I wouldn’t change a thing, I'd do it all over again next year.

If I didn’t have angling I would have nothing. I’am a piscator.

Andrew Croft