Well, hopefully by the time you are reading this, the weather will have finally cooled off enough to dig out the old pike gear again and I will have put away the summer gear. Lovely though the long summer has been, I am glad to see the back of it. Not only as with my hair and skin colouring, as anything lighter than pitch black and I almost burst into flames like something from a Dracula film, but also because Winter is my favourite time of year for fishing, the fish are starting to pack on weight again, and there is nothing nicer than being up at the crack of dawn when the frosts are still over all the plants and everything is crunchy underfoot.
All being well, I will have a couple of new pike waters lined up for this Winter, both of which having a good pedigree of big fish, and one of them giving me a very good chance of banking a thirty. But for the purposes of this article, I am going back to where I finished off last season. This is a water I have been fishing on and off for the last few seasons, a large windswept pit that has been fairly kind to me over the years. I’d been having a few pike to mid teens from around the central area of the long bank, but felt I was still missing out on finding the larger fish. My usual partner in crime Alan Stagg had had some cracking pike to just over 27lb, but despite me catching more fish than him, his average size was much better so I needed to do something to redress the balance. I decided to spend a day over there with just a couple of marker rods, having a real good search around for any features I had missed on my fishing before. Eventually I found a likely looking area to concentrate on, with one marker on the spot, I could work all around it with the other and build up a really detailed picture of the bottom of the lake. There was a large shallow area stretching out to about 60 yards of about 5ft deep, and on the far side of it out to the left, I found what felt like a ‘V’ shaped depression. About 5 yards long, tapering away from me to about 4 yards wide, and about 2ft deeper than all the surrounding bottom, a perfect holding/ambush spot for a pike. I clipped up and making careful note of the far bank skyline, I wound back in and using the good old trusty sticks, I counted out the wraps so I could place my baits perfectly next time I was down.
The following weekend saw me back down about an hour before first light. I know they can be a contentious issue, but for piking I have never had a problem with using bait boats, when it comes to presenting large soft baits at range, they are invaluable. So I loaded up a nice big soft juicy herring, and steered HMS Cheating Git out to the mark. The second bait went out on an underarm lob beside some overhanging bushes and by the time I had finished setting up my third rod, it was light enough for me to see the drifter I was going to be using. Although I haven’t really had that much success over the years using drifters, it’s a method I always enjoy using, the anticipation and excitement of seeing that big vane suddenly start bobbing and then disappearing always gets the old ticker going. Well, first light came and went, a time of day that is normally my favourite and most successful for catching pike, and as the day dragged on, so did the blank. Eventually just as I was starting to think about packing up, I had a slow twitchy take on the margin rod under the bush. A firm strike was met with a fairly lacklustre response, and before I think it had realised it was hooked, an absolute beast of a pike was languishing on the surface in front of me, just seeing it in the water I could tell it must have been pushing at least 4lb, the whole herring hanging out of its mouth almost half the length of the fish. Needless to say I didn’t bother netting it, just reaching down I held it behind the gills and popped the hooks out from its scissors. Not exactly the huge pike I was hoping for, but at least it saved a blank. Even though it was only a tiny pike, by far the smallest I had caught from here, it was one I was still one I was pleased to catch, as it showed they were breeding in there and the new stock was coming through. That was that for that session, nothing exciting but I was still confident that the V would produce fish.
The following day I was back down at some ungodly hour and setting up in the dark again. Once more a nice juicy herring was boated out into the V on the left hand rod, and the other two rods recast too. The right hand rod back under the bush, and the middle back out on the drifter. Alan had joined me on this session in the next swim along, I’m not 100% sure if it was because he fancied the area for a fish as well, or because he knew I had sausages with me. Either way, there he was and it was good to have someone to natter with to relieve the boredom whilst waiting for a fish. Again the morning went with nothing much to report, but around mid morning I had an absolute flyer of a take from the V. I don’t thing I’ve ever had a pike take so fast, it was more like a carp run. On striking I straight away knew it was a good fish, just a big heavy thumping on the end of the line. It started kiting fast towards the drifter rod, and thankfully Alan was able to wind it out of the way for me. After about 5 minutes I was starting to gain control of it and bring it towards the bank, we still hadn’t seen it, but judging by the amount of water it was moving when it swirled near the surface, it was obviously a decent pike. As she started to tire, Alan got ready with the net, and as I drew her over the drawstring, it was clearly a 20. I won’t bore you with all the weighing and photographing bit, on the scales I was over the moon to see them reading 22lb 12oz. not a huge fish by national standards, but a new pb for me so that was good enough. Again I ended up with just the one fish for the day, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.
The following weekend saw me and my sausage and mustard obsessed friend returning to the same swims, and again our rods went back out on our spots in anticipation. About an hour after casting (or boating) out our baits, Alan had a twitchy half-hearted take on his left hand rod. He wound down and struck, but sadly after a couple of shakes of the head, what felt like a good lump threw the hooks and got away. Unfortunately on reeling in, Alan managed to somehow snag his other rod and had to wind that in too, but as he was using nice soft sardines, he ended up with both of them falling off out in his swim, not ideal as they could end up filling up any patrolling fish in the area and stop them taking our baits. Anyway, he soon had a couple of fresh baits out on the spots and was confident that the fish would still be in the area and would return and pick up his hookbait. After about an hour, I had another take from the V, this time a much more tentative bite compared with the previous week, but it was taking steadily so I wound down and set the hooks. Once again, it felt like a decent lump of a fish, and after another good solid fight, I slid her over the waiting drawstring. This is where is got interesting, as she sat in the margins whilst we got the scales and mat etc. ready, she coughed twice. Each time she coughed, she brought up one of Alan’s sardines. We were the only ones fishing this area (we knew everyone fishing this lake) and as I was only using herring, and due to the freshness of the baits, they could only have been the ones that Alan had lost about an hour before. It just shows how much some fish will move to search out food, and probably why the first time I fished the V I didn’t catch, she was probably just off patrolling another part of the lake that day. Once we lifted her out on to the mat, it soon became apparent that it was the same fish from the week before, but she looked fatter so we weighed her anyway. She had gone from 22lb 12oz to 23lb 10oz, a gain of 14oz in 6 days, and if she hadn’t coughed up Alan’s sardines, that would have probably been nearer 2lb. She was certainly on the munch. Thankfully that was on the last day of the pike season, as she had obviously lost all caution and was gobbling up everything she could find in readiness for spawning, so at least I knew she wouldn’t be disturbed any more. That was our last fish for the pike season, I ended up with 50 doubles over the Winter, by far my highest tally, and topped off with the two new pb’s, albeit them both being the same fish.
Which brings me to where I am now, starting to prepare my gear for the new season. I always use braid for my piking, and the beauty of it is, there is virtually no deterioration with it unlike mono, so my spools are all still filled to the brim with my ever trusty 30lb Kinetic braid. My drop off alarms have all been fitted with new batteries, and by the time this is published, my Gardner rig bins will be filled up with a load of new traces. I’m going to have a go at making some drifters too, bigger ones than the standard shop bought ones, as good though they are, I know on my new water the pike like really big baits, so I am going to want a float that can support a bait of at least 2lb, well, that’s assuming I can find some herrings that size anyway, knowing my luck they will all be small this season. Speaking of which, I really must go and sort out my freezer for stocking up on deadbaits, as at the moment it seems overflowing with all the leftovers and stuff I never used up from my summer fishing, all you can see when you open it is bags of sweetcorn and dead maggots.
Right, enough waffling from me, here’s hoping I (and of course you dear reader) have been getting amongst the big toothy critters now it’s November, and if not, you’ve at least managed to keep Alan away from your sausage stash!