It’s safe to say that 2015 has been a year I won’t forget in a hurry. I’ve caught some amazing fish from a variety of venues and mid-way through the year I had the pleasure of becoming a dad for the first time. Great memories have been created by the bucket load during the last 12 months.

Every winter my angling see’s me in pursuit of pike, and in particular river pike over 20lbs. Despite what you may think, pike of this size from a river (any river in fact) are very hard to come by. Many anglers spend years trying to catch just one over the magical mark from running water and more often than not fail.

It’s no mean feat to find and catch one, believe me. This is why I only ever set my target to be a single pike over 20lbs each winter as I have limited time and have to fish when my days off work dictate I have spare time. Therefore, I have to make the most of any opportunity I get. Many miles were driven and hours spent in pursuit of river pike, searching for that one spot someone else has overlooked. Indeed during the winter of 2014/15 I drove over 2000 miles and walked many more just for one fish.

Did I succeed?

Thankfully yes with a fish of 20lbs 8oz coming to my net in the early part of the winter. I was over the moon and with the proverbial monkey off my back I relaxed a bit and felt I could enjoy my fishing a bit more. Towards the end of the river season I went for a day’s piking with nothing more than a few jacks in mind, well what I caught completely blew me away! I only went and beat my pike personal best with a river monster of 26lbs; a fish I am 100% confident had never seen a hook before considering the place I was fishing. I was truly ecstatic and it was a wonderful way to round off the river season.

Being a dyed in the wool river angler the close season always brings mixed results for me, as my heart is never truly in whatever fishing I decide to do. Fishing still waters simply doesn’t get me as excited or enthusiastic as being by running water. I always set myself a target but generally get bored quite quickly and just flit from place to place without gaining any consistency in my angling. This year I was determined to have a sustained campaign for a fish that only gets caught a couple of times a year from a local day ticket lake.

Being an old quarry, one side of the lake is faced with a sheer cliff face, while the other 3 sides can be fished. The biggest carp is a common that usually comes out anywhere between 26 and 30lbs, depending on the time of year. Going many months between captures (despite it being a busy lake) this was one carp that might give me the challenge I needed to stay focused.

My first couple of sessions were blanks, but I gained enough information to know where I needed to be for the next few weeks as she was due out and could potentially have been at a high weight. My 3rd session arrived and as it was just a dawn till dusk session so I travelled light and set up in my preferred swim. After a couple of hours I decided upon a move, as I could see fish patrolling the margin along the cliff face, so moved 2 swims to my left and rather than put lots of bait in chose to fish 2 stiff hinged rigs at the base of the cliff in about 3 feet of water.

The marginal shelf runs gradually down to about 9 feet of water and the carp were patrolling the top in the warmer water. It was nearing the end of the session when one of my rods was away. After a rather dull fight I had a nice common in the net. Rolling her over on the mat it soon became clear my 1st bite on only my 3rd session had miraculously resulted in my target fish on the bank. At 26lb 15oz it’s no ‘big fish’ on the grand scheme of things but you can only catch what is in front of you and I’d achieved what I set out. Luckily, it just took 3 sessions and a week instead of 3 months! As you can imagine for the rest of the close season I flitted from place to place, catching plenty of average carp, but I was not really fishing with any motivation or enthusiasm.

Finally (at last) the river season was upon us again and I could get back to doing what I enjoy the most, fishing for barbel on the Midlands river networks. Over the years I have tended to take quality over quantity and prefer to fish places that gave me a high chance of double figure barbel. Having amassed quite a healthy tally of doubles over the years (to a personal best of 17lb 10oz) this season saw me change my thought process slightly. Targeting big fish takes a lot of time and dedication, especially time – and this is something I used to have in spades so disappearing for days on end or 3 times a week was easily do able and didn’t affect the dynamics at home. Once my little boy came along a few weeks after the season started I had to rethink my approach and with time limited going fishing just for a bite no matter the size of barbel was the plan.

I did manage to do a little more fishing than I had anticipated, so enjoyed several days on the lovely river Wye over the course of the summer, interspersed with short evening sessions on my local Warwickshire Avon. Amazingly not specifically targeting the more well known areas still saw me catch my fair share of double figure fish and with 5 doubles from about 40 barbel captured throughout the summer and autumn. I was happy with that as 1 in 8 isn’t a bad ratio on limited time. Only having a few hours here and there has actually made me a much better angler as I’ve had to make things happen when time isn’t on my side, whereas before I had the luxury of waiting for something to occur.

This brings us nicely into autumn and winter. Whereas usually I’d have spent the last 2 months pike fishing and doing a bit of barbelling I’ve barely fished for 7 weeks. Work and family life have taken over, but to be quite honest without either of these I wouldn’t have my fishing and I’m sure come the New Year I’ll be back on the banks once again.