The night sped by. The hours passed by. Onward I drove the only company the neon cat’s eyes. To the north I was bound in pursuit of pike, a new water had been discovered and its mysteries and treasures where there to be plundered.
The rain now came, at first big random splashes on the windscreen which soon built into a driving wall of water, the wipers now at full speed beating furiously at the incessant deluge, trucks lumbered passed on there business sending up columns of spray. I cursed the weather and changed the CD, Onward I drove, alone, but with thoughts of pike burning bright.
At last the motorway came to an end but my journey hadn’t. On into the night the road snaked and even though I couldn’t see the landscape I knew it was changing, deep into the countryside it went, rising and falling, twisting and turning, the road goes ever on. Concentrate! Tiredness cloyed at my temples and my eyes burned, the smell of caffeine was heavy as I drank. Opening the windows to let in the fresh night air the smell of fresh pine trees wafted into the car I drank deep intoxicated by the fragrance I smiled as I turned up the stereo and accelerated into the bend.
The world of the piker is strange. In pursuit of a creature from another realm. A creature that captures the imagination of all who cross her path, but what is it about Esox Lucias that leads us anglers across this land, driving through the night through atrocious weather over countless miles? Will this trip be just another wild goose chase or will the many snippets of information and rumours, just once maybe will turn into something tangible, but what will the prize be? Will it justify the many sacrifices that we as pikers often make? Is it this chase, this game that we crave more than the fishing itself?
Id liken it to a puzzle whereby the rules are always shifting always changing. For the lucky ones fishing is an innocent past time a chance to escape, to relax. A fine line however exists and to cross it means to delve into a place where the lines between sport and hobby become blurred. To those which cross this line it becomes more a way of life, possibly an obsession. After time the years flash by, friendships and lovers come and go, the true ones will stay loyal even though the chase, the game goes on, hunting the hunter.
At last after hours of driving the miles on the sign posts become less and I know that I will be nearing my journeys end. I pulled the car into a lay-by switched off the engine and got out, stretching my arms out and making some strange growling sound I took the fresh cool night air deep into my lungs and enjoyed the silence after hours of artificial noise. I made a quick check of my kit, rucksack, rods and freezer box. The bare minimum, discretion was the name of this game and I had half a mile to trudge before I reached the lakes dark waters. I like walking on my own at night your senses tune in and you pass by undetected by the world a rare kind of solitude in these increasingly congested times.
I clamber over the dry stone wall feeling the damp mosses and lichens under my fingers crossing the open field I notice stars pepper the sky between scurrying clouds. Another wall is negotiated and I descend into the depths of the wood. I join the path walking until I come to my marker telling me where to go in the dark. Once again trees are all around me there trunks and boughs darker shades against the night. The wind sighs and the trees whisper and creak, twigs crack and branches whip my face as I force my way on, not far now and I would be there. The trees grow sparse and clear as I approach the water. I hear it before I see it waves rhythmically lapping the shore, I cringe as a flock of crows leave there roost chattering raucously in protest at my invasion giving away my position. Silence replaces the commotion and I’m now here.
Still under the cloak of darkness I prepare to fish, the rods where already sett up and all I needed to do was clip on the traces and attach the leads. Once cast out I began to wait, there was no dramatic sunrise instead the night gave way to a lessening gloom and the new day heralded a rising wind, Scots pines bent and flexed on the opposite shore and the woods around me began to moan. Waves increased, charging ashore a cavalry of white horses, there was a chill in the air and I hankered down behind a knar led and weathered beech tree.
Angling is many things to many people for me it allows me to get close to nature to observe the changing rhythms of the seasons. As anglers we are often privileged to see wildlife and natural spectacles that would over wise pass the general public by. The winter had been dramatic this year with Atlantic storm systems relentlessly pounding the British Isles one after the other. A long with the wind and rain temperatures where unusually mild, around me the woodland bore evidence of this as snow drops carpeted the ground like a quilt of fragile glass pearls. It was early January and these plants tend not to appear until well into February.
A movement caught my eye a hare lolloped along the waters edge oblivious to my presence as I sat still and quiet. The hare is an enigmatic creature steeped in legend bound up with old mythology, witches and the full moon. It was believed in times of old that they held supernatural powers. This one however simply went about his business and disappeared into the undergrowth.
The growing wind brought with it squally showers that where beginning to turn wintry in the chill air. Hail stone hissed on the water like a venomous snake.
At 10:30 I had a clip out and the billy screamed. I slowly walked to the rod turned off the alarm and watched the braid, very slowly it moved over the front alarm. I picked up the rod checked the clutch, wound down and pulled the rod over my shoulder hard. The rod compressed to its maximum and just held, at first I thought I was snagged but a few sullen thumps transmitted down the braid, I was in! Whatever was on the end felt heavy, very heavy, I kept her coming towards me pumping and lowering the rod reeling in the slack. She stayed deep not doing much until she built up some speed and pulled the rod down forcing me to adjust the clutch and give line. She kited to the left which I countered with side strain. I turned her and began to once again draw her towards me. This is what I live for as an angler bent into an angry fish against the back drop of wild countryside. She came to the surface and thrashed her head, I lowered the rod in order to coax her down. She was a big fish certainly a twenty, she took line again but not as before and I began to dictate the battle bringing her towards me. I threw the net into the margins as she neared the margins it was here that she lunged skyward half in and half out of the water gills flaring. She was huge with a massive head, I uttered the word thirty and noticed that I was trembling. Concentrating I drew her over the net but on lifting I couldn’t fit her paddle in, I acted quickly and threw the rod down and grabbed the net with both hands and shook her into the net the water exploding into foam.
Un-clipping the trace I rolled the net up and staggered up the bank, bloody hell she was big. I opened her jaws and it was like I could have popped my head in. The bottom treble was quite far down each time I tried to turn it I felt her body tense up trying to shake free of my grip. In through the gills with the side cutters and the hooks where cropped and simply fell free keeping her clean. She was a handful to weigh and photograph all 28Ib 8oz of her.
I held her in the margins of the lake waiting for her to kick free. Pure angling magic not my biggest pike but certainly my best.
No more runs where forth coming but I cared little . I repeated the old adage “you only need the one run” I was content a warm feeling burnt within a feeling only anglers know. As the afternoon wore on the wind eased the sky cleared and the sun dipped low burning in the west heralding the coming frost. To the north there truly be dragons.