Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Chew Valley Record

Well, where do I start! I spent 8 days pike fishing on Chew Valley Lake last year and was rewarded with my first twenty and a few jacks. The feeling that day I had my first twenty was enough to make my mind up there and then that I would be returning to this so called “Mecca of pike fishing” in 2014 in the hope of something bigger and better. So, when tickets went on sale for the 2014 trials at 09:00 on Saturday 03rd January 2014, I was sat with my finger over the call button on two mobiles and had dialled in the BT ringback request on the landline. At 14:51 on that same day, it happened! The landline rang back and I was through to Woodford Lodge! An achievement in itself and a lot like hearing that alarm sound! I was fortunate to be able to secure 8 days on the bank for 2014, 2 in February, 4 in October and 2 in November and I was very excited about the prospect of my return!

Our first 2014 session was to be 06/07th February, the Thursday and Friday of the first week of the 2014 spring trials. Chew fished extremely well Monday and Tuesday with numerous thirties to 38.08 being caught from the boat and bank (it very often does the first two days), so the anticipation was building! I received a phone call from an aquaintence of mine on the evening of 05th February who had been on the bank Monday and Tuesday and had managed a 19.14, a 28.14 and a 29.14. Unfortunately it wasn’t great news, the wind had really picked up on Wednesday and the water had coloured up meaning it hadn’t fished well at all that day. This was the first time we muttered the most over used cliché in pike fishing “it only takes one run…” and with those words till ringing in our ears we set off for the 190 mile journey….

I had got wind that certain areas of the lake had been producing the fish on the first two days, but I have my own theory about Chew pike so I already knew where we were heading and it wasn’t where the fish had been caught, or so I thought! I remained confident as I expected the other anglers would head to these recently productive areas in the hope that the fish would still be around, which would mean we may get some water to ourselves which can be a rarity on Chew but I think makes a big difference. We arrived at Wick Green Point around 03:30, expecting the gates to be locked as had been suggested. They weren’t, so we pulled onto the car park, unsurprisingly at such a ridiculous hour, to find it unoccupied. A quick scout around with the head torch on, revealed the wind was not as forecast and was actually blowing from left to right instead of, off our backs. Of no significance you may think but this caused a distinct delineation between the coloured shallower water and the clearer deeper water.

We hung around in the car and tried to catch up on the lost sleep, but it was no good! We were sat with Chew Valley Lake in front of us and when another vehicle turned up at 04:30, we began to get the kit out and set up slowly.

The first rod was cast in at 06:00 and at 06:10 I received my first run to a joey mackerel on my left hand rod. I wound down and felt resistance and with a sweep of the rod, it hooped over only for everything to fall slack in an instant. I reeled in to find just the head of the bait remaining. A frustrating start! At around 07:00 the same rod signalled another take, this time to a bluey head section. My God, if the same thing didn’t happen again! A third run to the same rod at 08:30 and this time it was on, thunderous head shakes 70 yards out and no line to be gained! Was this the one? Unfortunately not as the bad luck continued, and after about twenty seconds it all went slack again. This one was a good fish and the rod was hurled up the bank in a petulant display of frustration and disappointment. But, I had had three runs to the same rod from the same area, and this gave me confidence…

Time for a brew, to settle down after losing the good fish and to hatch a plan. Remember the line between the coloured and clear water, well the bait on the rod that had produced the runs had been positioned just beyond this in about 9’ of water so I decided that both rods were going to go out about 90yds in the baitboat to this range…

I mounted a medium Tesco sardine onto my size 2 Eagleclaws and took it out to “the line”. I tightened up to the lead, opened the bail arm, clipped on the rear drop off and switched on the alarm, and then turned around to reel in my other rod to re-position it in the same manner. Almost instantaneously, the alarm sounded and the drop off hit the bank stick. The thought of the three previous runs immediately entered my head and my confidence was shaken. In what seemed like an age, I had a little internal conversation with myself, “should I do anything different?”, “should I wait?”, “no, just do what you normally do!” and with that I wound down until I felt the weight and gave it a mighty heave!!

WOW! It was like being hit by a truck as the fish hit me back with equivalent force and the 3lb TC rod took on its full fighting curve! The fish kited right over my uncle’s rod, came to the surface about 70 yds out and breached like one of the great whales! “This is a good fish” was all I could manage…

The fight was unspectacular from this point as the fish succumbed to steady pressure and as it arrived in the shallow margin it was obvious it was a “mammoth”! By this point the two anglers to our right had come to see what all the commotion was about. All that was left to do was to get her in the net, a task that was entrusted to my long time fishing partner and my uncle….

To say it was a struggle would be an understatement! Her belly was on the lakebed and as she didn’t go in nicely first time the chord was now stuck under her belly making it near impossible to slide the net any further out to scoop her up! She was half in and half out when I dropped the rod and grabbed the arms of the net to scoop her up, my heart stopped when I realised that the hooks had already transferred into the net, but she was in and she was mine!!

I'd love to say I was totally composed and took it all in my stride but in truth I was a jibbering wreck! Shaking like a nervous fruit jelly as the great john Wilson would say! A real good job the two anglers next to me (Later introduced as Warren Hammond and Dave Harman) took control and ensured the fish was weighed and photographed correctly as well as putting her welfare first! My 40lb Avons were just not going to cut out, so I was fortunate that Warren and Dave had a set of Fox Digis to hand. I weighed her first on the Avons in my Korum Multimat just to check, and sure enough, the scales spun round and the spring crashed into the bottom of the case…

The fish was returned to the net and back in the water while the other scales were retrieved. She was weighed again in the Multimat and went 48.06 (the mat weighing 4lbs) which gave a weight of 44.06. Given the significance of the fish (a potential Chew Valley Record), Warren and Dave suggested it was not wise to take a weight in a sling weighing 4lbs and with this she was transferred into a proper sling that the scales had been zeroed on. The reading was 44.06! Warren was quick thinking and run the tape over her. At 47” she wasn’t a long fish but with a 26” girth, she certainly was a fatty!!

I just stood there with my head in my hands, what has just happened to me??

Warren, Dave and my uncle then proceeded to take some quick photos as I attempted to hold this beast in something like a presentable fashion and then it was time for her to go back….

As I cradled her in the shallow margin, the only thoughts that were in my head was for sheer and utter admiration of this ultimate predator that lay before me. An absolute privilege to have shared those few moments on the bank with her and as she gave out a powerful kick I released my grip and allowed her to gracefully slide away. Well, I hoped that was going to be the case, but instead she decided she didn’t want to leave and powered head first into the bank! She went away perfectly at the second time of asking and as I watched that enormous back and huge paddle glide through the shallow water, it all began to sink in!

The rest of the day was spent with my head in the clouds as I took phone call after phone call, recounting the story and describing my feelings. With each call and with each telling of the story it seemed to become more and more unbelievable, and by 21:00 I was worn out, with a major migraine and retired to the comfort of a Premier Inn bed…..

The next day passed without event, we arose later than planned at 07:20 and were in no rush to get on the bank. We decided to head to the lodge for breakfast but only after the boats had gone out, as I just wanted to “lie low” and enjoy the rest of the trip. We headed to the dam wall on Walley Bank which we knew was empty and had the whole bank to ourselves. It was a day of reflection and I didn’t fish very hard in all honesty. We hit the road at 17:15 as the rain settled in. The journey home seemed to pass extremely quickly and I was glad of the decent night’s sleep I had had the night before!

A few people have suggested with tongue in cheek “you may as well give up piking now…” and that got me thinking. I may have reached the pinnacle in terms of the size of an individual fish but that’s not what pike fishing is about for me. My top ten pike still contains low doubles and I have only fished a handful of waters in the grand scheme of things. It may seem like a culmination of efforts but to me this is just the beginning and I will be back at Chew in October and November and I have even now secured another 4 days for 2015, for having broken the lake record.

Another consideration in my angling career is that I have a 2 ½ year old son whom I dearly hope will one day be my fishing partner and that this story could help in firing up the angler in him from a young age. He already knows his pike from his perch and is practicing his poses and self takes at home, coming out with ubiquitous angling phrases such as “Daddy, it’s a whopper!”

My enthusiasm has been stoked and I can’t wait to get back out to catch my next BIG pike, now I know that dreams can come Chew!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Interview with Sam Edmonds

 Welcome to the Pike Pool Sam, I promised to go easy on you (not!), can you give the readers your vital statistics (age, location, profession etc)

Sam:- Thanks Jason, it's an honour to have been asked! I'm 19 years old and live near Ware in Hertfordshire, so I'm very lucky to have the Lea Valley right on my doorstep, so I've got plenty of good fishing around me. I'm a consultant for Pure Fishing, primarily for the brands associated with lure fishing (Abu Garcia, Berkley, Sébile, Owner), and also in the coming months I'm taking on the role as Project Manager for an initiative being run by the charity, Get Hooked on Fishing, called GHoF Bedfordshire. Thanks to lottery funding, the lakes at Swiss Garden/Shuttleworth College have been dredged and the plan is to create the site in to a teaching facility for those wanting to learn to fish. We'll teach all kinds of fishing there but I am very keen to introduce people to lure fishing once it's all up and running. Things have only just started to get underway, and it's going to be a massive project, but I'm really looking forward to it.

Thanks for that Sam, so here goes then fasten your seatbelt LoL

Pike Pool: Can you tell us what you earliest angling experience was, at what age you were and do you remember catching something?

Sam:- My earliest memories were when my Dad used to take me along my local River Beane, catching Bullheads and Stone Loach with a net, which was when I was around three years old. I still really enjoy lifting up stones on the riverbed and seeing what lives under them! I was then shown float fishing using a whip, and at around the age of 6 my Dad started to introduce me to lure fishing and flyfishing.

Pike Pool: You & your Dad have caught lots of lovely species fish, which one is the most memorable and why?

Sam:- That's a very tough question to answer! I love catching different species on lures and flies - they're all memorable in their own way - many of the smaller species are very pretty and colourful, whereas some larger species I've caught not only look impressive but fight like stink too! If I had to choose one, it may have to be Roosterfish, not only because they look awesome when they raise their dorsal fin, but the fight is unbelievable - it's one of those fish that can easily spool you if you aren't using the correct gear. Whilst in Costa Rica I caught 5 in one day up to 45lbs, and three of those were casting big Poppers over submerged seamounts and chugging them back, making as much commotion as I could. It's exhausting but high octane fishing - watching them zoom up from the depths and chase your Popper before exploding in to it is awesome!

Pike Pool: Do you like to indulge in any other activities?

Sam:- I love sport - I used to do a lot of cross country, running for the school in the county championships, as well as representing the school football team, rugby team, basketball team and cricket team, but to be honest fishing has completely taken over!

Pike Pool: Whats' you most embarrassing angling accident, and did it require a trip to the hospital?

Sam:- I was on a fishing holiday in Loreto, on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, when I was wading along the beach in front of our hotel with a lure rod. I noticed a long, blue strand continuing out in to the sea, and it looked exactly like a piece of old fishing line. Curious to see what was on the end, I grasped it in my hand and was going to wind it in before a very sharp pain went through my hand, just like being stung by a bee. It seemed to stick to my hand so I had to dip it back in the water to quickly try and get it off. I then looked to my left and noticed it was the tentacle of a tiny blue Jellyfish floating on the surface - the body was perhaps 5cm long but the tentacles were at least a couple of metres! Luckily I didn't have to go to hospital but I remember it being very painful!

Another was in Costa Rica, on the same trip as I caught the Roosterfish. It was Christmas Day and my Dad and I were fishing off the jetty at the Zancudo Lodge where we were staying - we were taking it in turns with a lure and a fly rod and at the time, I was using the fly rod, a 9' 8wt with a small Clouser Minnow on the end, just seeing what different species I could catch. On one of my first casts I had a good take right under my feet but struck in to what I thought was a snag or the bottom. After jerking the rod from side to side and trying to jiggle the fly off, it felt like the snag started to come towards me. I tightened up and put a bend in the rod and it continued to rise, until two eyes popped up from under the water right in front of me. I'd hooked a Caiman (cleanly in the mouth) about 10ft long! I don't think it knew it was hooked and after eyeing me up for a few seconds it started to swim away. Dad quickly came to the rescue and ripped the rod out of my hands, and busted off the fly.

This isn't a question you should be asking me anyway - you should ask my Dad. He's had shark encounters, accidentally foul-hooked a Manatee, been zapped by an Electric Ray, nearly struck by lightning a couple of times and even attacked by a Lion after a days fishing!

PikePool: Your really starting to make a name for yourself in the angling world, but who is your angling hero or heroes?

Sam:- Choosing an angling hero is really difficult - there are so many great anglers, even those that are unknown. I really should choose one that is English but I tend to follow American and Japanese anglers to learn new methods and tactics. I think Kevin VanDam is the ultimate Bass angler - a true professional and an expert in all techniques, from power fishing with crankbaits and spinnerbaits to finesse fishing with drop-shot rigs and shaky heads. Rick Clunn, a four-time Bassmaster Classic champion is another very experienced tournament angler I look up to, along with Mike Iaconelli, and I particularly like Shinichi Fukae from the FLW tour as he has a great personality! It's been a dream of mine since a very early age to one day fish in the Bassmasters or the FLW tour.

When it comes to flyfishing, pioneers Lefty Kreh and Flip Pallot, again both American, are a big inspiration to me.

Pike Pool: You have recently become and Angling Trust Level 1 coach, do you see this as a possible career path?

Sam:- To be honest I've been an Angling Trust Level 1 Coach for two years! I just haven't had the time to take my Level 2 course, however I'll be taking my Level 2 hopefully very soon because, as mentioned earlier, just in the last few weeks I have been given the role of Project Manager for GHoF Bedfordshire, where I will be teaching.

Pike Pool: Your also a sponsored angler with Pure Fishing (blatant plug), have they offered to jet you off to any far flung places to test their gear?

Sam:- Now there's an idea! I'll get in touch with them after this interview!

Pike Pool: Your known for fishing nearly exclusively with lures, if your were stuck on a desert island with a lure rod and reel, but only one lure, what would it be and why?

Sam:- That's another tough question! There are so many great lures, but if I had to choose one it would probably be a home-made white bucktail jig, around 2-3 inches in length, tied to a very strong saltwater resistant 1/4 - 3/8oz jighead - very simple, but very versatile and brilliant for all species in both salt and freshwater. The reason I've chosen a Bucktail jig over a softbait is because they are much more durable - soft baits don't last two seconds on toothy saltwater fish! A very close second would be the 95mm Sébile Magic Swimmer hard swimbait - I was very impressed with this on my last trip abroad to Tobago.

Pike Pool: Is there any other method of angling that your really fancy having a go at, long trotting for dace, flyfishing for grayling?

Sam:- My Aunt, Uncle and Cousin live very close to the River Taff in Wales so whenever we visit we try and flyfish the Taff for Grayling - that's all according to conditions, as we haven't been able to the last two trips as the river has been carrying too much water. Flyfishing for Grayling is fantastic fun. I'd like to try and catch them on lures one day too! Although I've also caught fish trotting, I've never used a centrepin before so this would be interesting to try. However, my real passion lies with lure fishing and flyfishing - in my opinion, that's the ultimate way to catch fish.

Pike Pool And finally, you recently gave up your Saturday to come and coach at a Suffolk PAC/LAS teach in, what do you see as the biggest challenge to getting more youngsters on the bank?

Sam:- Having grown up with schoolmates that weren't the slightest bit interested in fishing, I think a lot of youngsters see it as sitting on a box, under a brolly, in the pouring rain, getting soaked and watching a float that rarely goes under. I know that's how a lot of my old schoolmates used to visualise it, although I've introduced some of them to lure fishing and flyfishing and now they're always bugging me whenever I see them about going fishing! I think that's the biggest hurdle - if we can change their views so that when someone mentions the word 'fishing', they think of it as being jazzed up, with flashy, vibrant, colourful rods, reels, lures, minimal kit all in a rucksack, not dressed in camo but more sporty, casual gear, and being able to roam the bank rather than sitting in one spot all day and getting cold, I think the amount of youngsters that would start to view fishing as cool would rise. The American, Australian and Japanese Bass anglers, along with French Street fishermen, are the perfect examples. Not only is it appealing to boys, but girls too - with lure fishing there's no bait involved, so they don't have to touch live Worms and Maggots. I've shown lures working in a swimming pool at several shows over the past year and there's been almost as many girls wanting to have a go at, for example, drop-shotting, than boys. It's all linked to why I think lure fishing is going to continue to grow in popularity in the UK - I hope so anyway.

Well thankyou Sam for letting us lure you (pun intended) into the pool for this interview, I hope you have enjoyed the experience and will be joining us on the Pikers Pit forum soon!!!

Sam:- No problem Jason, and thank you again for asking me!

Sam's fishing blog:-