Wednesday, 16 July 2014

My story James Potts "How it all started to now"

Living in Sunderland, which is the north east of England, really limits you when it comes to catching pike. I either have to travel 2 to 3 hours South to the Lake District or 2 to 3 hours North to the Scottish Borders. It was the Scottish Borders where I served my piking apprenticeship. 
When I think back to those days, which were only a few years back, I still feel excited. We would pass loch after loch and I wanted to fish them all. I reckon I've probably wet a line in most of them now. 

We always had a little boat which was perfectly suited to fishing these waters. The majority of the time, due to rules on the waters, we used an electric outboard. This set up suited us, as most of our boat fishing was done in the spring and Autumn were we could trolled and lure fish on the drift. We didn't dead bait so much from the boat then, I think we were too impatient. We just wanted action and fast action. 

In the early days a 6lb fish was an achievement, even if it was on heavy tackle. As we learned more and more, we lightened our tackle and were catching a dozen or so jacks on a loch each. We would then move lochs and catch a few more. I think my record for one day, number wise is 22 jacks to lures.
We were fairly content initially but my mind soon begun to wonder. I had hit early success in my piking adventure and landed two 20 lb + pike in two visits to a particular loch. So this deluded me slightly were I thought catching specimen pike regularly was going to be easy. 

For the following winter season we upgraded our boat, initially we viewed a Bontwicho 15' and purchased a 12' cathedral hulled foam filled dory type. Naturally we were eager to test this new boat out. We headed up to Scotland for an overnight bivvy session. I think the first day there was a breeze on the water and with only a Minn Kota electric motor fitted to the boat, due to the rules, we opted to bank fish instead.
I think we had a few jacks, the biggest being around 7lb. But the following morning my fishing partner, Ian was excited. Ian loved being afloat and fishing with lures and today it was flat calm. 

By 2pm  we had thrashed the water with lures but without any fish being landed. At this point the fish finder almost went black with fish. I thought this could be the bream shoal that the water was reputed for. I cast a heavy jerk bait through them the shoal a few times without success as I thought big pike would be following the bream picking off the weak and injured. Nothing took the lure, the water has also a reputation for big perch having caught one over 2.5lb before. So I then fitted a small 9cm Rapala lure on my UL outfit and cast out. I had a hit immediately and it was solid, a big pike had taken the tiny lure. 

The fight started and every time I got the pike close to the boat it powered off taking lots of line off the small match type reel. When I got the pike along side the boat it looked as if it was almost half the length of the boat. This is when I started getting anxious. This water had produced a 30lb pike and I thought this was it. There was one problem though, it was lightly lip hooked by a size 10 treble and I struggled to move it until it tired. Eventually Ian netted it. The pike was very long with a huge head, but was just over 23 lb and I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe I landed it on such light gear. 

It was shortly after this where Ian suggested we fish Lake Windermere. The border lochs were being pressured and we were finding set lines and blatant poaching. I was right up for Windermere and me being me, started the research. I posted on forums, spoke to anglers who had fished it. All I got was negativity, "I've fished it for years biggest fish 15lb". "I blanked my first 10 visits" I wasn't fazed, I wanted a Windermere 20, after all the water held them. 

Ian suggested we hired a boat, he then suggested we hired a guide. After all Windermere is England's largest lake of over 11 miles long. Through the old P&P forum I stumbled across Eric Hopes name and I called him and arranged a date back end of November. We agreed to meet Eric at 9am at a jetty on the north side of Windermere. Initially myself and Ian were disappointed "9 o'clock, that's half the day gone" we we're die hard anglers, very much used to setting off before 5am and even as early as 2.30am. So we set off at 4am and arrived before 7am with our lure rods ready. We found a long jetty and started launching the lures out, I remember using a favourite lure at the time, a Salmo perch. I'd caught everywhere with this lure and I had a hit straight away but missed it. I had another hit and landed a small jack. I'd caught my first pike on Windermere after only 10 minutes or so. Ian also had a hit and I had another but we never managed to land any more pike. 
Eric then arrived in the Beagle, we loaded up and off we went. He had a huge outboard and blasted us to the first location, he anchored up and 5 dead bait rods were out, 2 for Ian, 2 for me and 1 for Eric. After an hour or so Eric indicated it was time to move. Ian twitched his bait, stopped and his float went under. He was in to the first fish. Eric netted Ian's first Windermere pike, which weighed just under 9lb, although looking at the photo it looks huge. Eric mastered camera angles. We then headed south, trolled a bit which was maybe our idea and settled on the last location. As we were beginning to lose light my float went under. Not having so much boat and float experience I wound down, felt the resistance of the cuddy and struck against it. The pike was on and I started t0 reel in the fish, just as Eric was about to net it the fish shook the hooks. I felt a bit red faced but hey ho I'd just lost a pike of around 18lb. We then head back and Eric was supportive of our custom and his words were he was pleased to be out with 2 nice anglers who didn't put him under the usual pressure, this comment remains with me. 

The second time I fished Windermere was probably a bit of a gamble as we were not really prepared for such a massive water. Even though it was a flat calm day in September. We launched the dory complete with 2.5hp engine. It wasn't winter and we adopted the tactics of the Scottish lochs. Looking back now this was a bit naive even if we didn't stray far off the bank. Initially when we changed from the electric motor to the mariner 2.5hp outboard our catch rate dropped. We had a few blanks on the river and up Scotland. However we were back to trolling lures on the mighty lake Windermere. We fished hard all day and eventually a Windermere pike took my trolled shallow invader lure in 10' of water. The pike was a stunning mid double and I was a happy piker and thought I'd made up for losing the pike with Eric a year prior to this catch. 
We wanted to concentrate more on Windermere and the following year we bought a 17' Wilson flyer with a 30hp engine, the 2.5hp engine was promoted to back up auxiliary engine. This purchase was made in April 2013 so we intended to fish Windermere properly during the 2013 winter. At this point I'd only fished Windermere twice.

I work offshore so miss large chunks of home life, that of course doesn't stop Ian. He loves this boat and was out every opportunity. On the sea, on the river and Windermere. He had a few overnighters on Windermere, using the boat with his dad or alone. I was of course on the end of the phone envious of his position whilst I was stuck working offshore. This was the summer and maybe Autumn of 2013. Ian from memory had a low and mid double, the bigger fish on a Mepps spinner. 

We never made Windermere together during 2013 due to other commitments.  
It was February 2014, I was coming to the end of my offshore leave. There were big pike being caught all over Facebook and the forums. I knew Ian was planning to fish Windermere the following week. It was Sunday and I was due to leave the house at 6am Wednesday morning. I approached my wife "darling" can I fish Tuesday. She agreed and I text Ian, he and his dad were up for it. So we planned Windermere the following Tuesday. Due to the launch we used not opening until 9am I agreed to be at Ian's for 6am.

I was at Ian's bang on 6am and his dad arrived at the same time. The boat sat there looking a bit neglected as it hadn't been used for a good few months. 
We hitched the boat up to my car and head off to the lakes. It normally takes around 2.5 hours with the boat so a 5 hour round trip. We were at the launch before it opened and had everything prepared ready to go for 9am. My research of this lake never stopped, it was like an obsession I studied the lake maps and catch results. I don’t know why but after fishing this water twice I thought I knew it. It was winter and very cold and I knew the depth fish were coming out, I knew where they were heading to spawn. Or at least I thought I did. This was the same with a few waters I worked on, sometimes I looked an expert and I give advice to people on the forum, then I would tell them I’ve only fished the place a few times. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but I devoted a lot of time to learning and my passion has evolved over the years. 

With this in mind Ian and I knew where we were heading. Ian had his thoughts and I had mine. We both settled on a place to anchor up. Anchoring was difficult as the weather was wild this day. Every time we went to anchor we drifted off position. We tried again and again as each time we weren’t happy as we anchored in the wrong place. Eventually the boat held in my spot and I proceeded to put my rods together. I had 2 x loch tamers ready with big floats and quick releases so all I had to do was attach a 4oz lead and a trace. I baited up with a large herring and a mackerel and took the front spot of the boat. This left Ian and his dad the full back deck for their 3 rods. Ian spent more time messing around getting his dad sorted after he managed a few tangles but I was fishing and watching my floats.

Once we had the baits in the water we decided to stick it out here due to the hassle of anchoring. It was after a few hours when my float went under, I struck into a fish and began winching it up. When it broke the surface we knew it was a good fish as it took off. The first time Ian went to net it he missed and the fish took off again. Ian has never missed a fish before and the fish I lost with Eric went through my mind. Eventually it was netted. We sent Ian’s dad into the cuddy so we could unhook the fish. Ian weighed the fish and it went 21 lb exactly. It was a short but solid, fat fish and I was ecstatic. Three times of fishing this vast water and I had achieved what I wanted, a Windermere 20+.

I have so many targets now and waters I want to master, I haven't pike fished the years most pikers have who will be reading this and a low twenty is still a dream fish to me.
James Potts aka JimK2