During the late autumn months I often find myself packing away my barbel and chub kit for the season as in recent years I have found myself spending most of the colder winter months in search of big pike. Pursuing big pike can become very addictive and when targeting any species to specimen sizes it is important to have access to the right venues. Venues that most importantly hold the size of fish you wish to catch.

With my first trip imminent, I spent an afternoon re-spooling the reels with fresh braid, tying several Rig Bins full of traces and stocking the freezer with a decent selection of deadbaits. A couple of days later I was up before dawn and on my way to the river full of excitement. After a couple of wrong turns it wasn’t too long before I found the chosen destination for the day. I’d yet to visit this stretch before, so being completely new to me I decided to leave the kit in the van and walk the stretch from top to bottom. I was in no rush as I knew that taking time to identify likely looking areas could pay dividends in future sessions. A couple of hours later I was back at the van and after walking several miles I had formulated a plan. The aim was to travel light and cover as much water as possible throughout the rest of the day and hopefully drop on a hungry pike or two. The first two swims I visited produced very little and after the third move of the day, I soon had two floats positioned tight against the far bank reeds. It didn’t take long before one of the floats confidently slid along the surface and a firm strike resulted in the first pike of the day.

The afternoon passed in a blur as I managed to land a further six fish, including a lovely 22lb 0oz specimen and a new river PB to boot!

After two stressful days on the phone at the beginning of the year, I had managed to secure my quota of four days on piking mecca Chew and I really hoped my patience would be rewarded. The alarm clock woke me at some ungodly hour and after a 2 hour drive I was soon pulling into the Woodford Lodge car park full of excitement. After a quick bacon butty, it was time to join the que. After waiting for what seemed like forever (in reality it was probably only half an hour) it was time to handover our tickets, get our boat number and make the mad dash across the ressie. In super-fast time we had the kit aboard the boat and motored out in the fog to our chosen area. There wasn’t a ripple on the reservoirs glass like surface and it really was one of those pikers dawns that we all dream about. After dropping the anchor we soon had each of our two rods covering as much water as possible, just willing one of the floats to slide under.

Just 10 minutes later our wish was granted when one of my deadbaits was picked up and the float began to move away. I quickly wound down and a strike was met with solid resistance. The rod hooped over and after a spirited fight, a big fish waddled passed the boat showing its sheer bulk before being scooped up in the waiting net. Fish welfare is everything when looking after all fish, but especially big pike in the confined space of a boat. As a matter of course as soon as the rods are out, the boat is organised and the unhooking equipment is to hand and ready if/when needed. This ensures the fish is kept out of the water for the minimal amount of time possible. There are few things in angling that come close to the sight of a big pike and after carefully slipping the hooks out, the fish registered a weight of 29lb 10oz. It was a great way to start the Chew campaign and another new pb to boot! The rest of the day passed quietly, with one mid-double falling to our boat before it was time to head back to lodge after an intense day angling.

Over the course of my next few allocated days the wind strengthened, which made the fishing in terms of presentation challenging. The abundance of weed in certain areas of the ressie was beginning to break up, collecting along the length of the braid at times. Despite fishing hard I managed a couple of doubles and one very small fish to show for my efforts. Fortunately the wind dropped for our last day and I was full of confidence as we motored across the ressie, knowing full well where our best chance of action would come from. After getting the rods out, it was the case of sitting it out for the morning, before we planned to head off and search them out.

An hour after the first the first cast, I decided to change one of the baits to a whole herring and 10 minutes after casting out the biggest one I had in my bag, it was away. After setting the hooks the rod hooped over as a big fish stayed deep. After hugging the bottom for most of the fight, it was only near the boat that I managed to tease the fish to the surface and we got a good look at her. After a couple of circles in front of the boat, she was soon safely nestling in the bottom of the net. Initially I thought the fish was a low twenty, until I realised how well built she was. At 29lb 4oz I was way off my initial estimation and it was a great way to end what had been a memorable couple of weeks.