Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over four years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff so if you are new to fly fishing or spinning these are the ones for you).
09 January 2008.
A different shade of pike.
My pal Jeff came down to fish for pike last year and recently he sent me an account of the tactics which he uses on his local patch. It's so different to the way I fish my clear, pool and riffle river that I think it's worth a full detailed account.
Hope you had a good Christmas and New Year.
I've been reading the freshwater postings on your site with great interest since my trip down to your place and thought you might like to hear of the approach I have to my own local piking by way of a contrast - also it gives me a chance to boast about my latest capture-but more of that later.
My local river is often murky and has a long tidal reach but it contains a good head of pike (why shouldn't it). It has a 'reputation' for good piking and there are many stories told locally of the 'thirty from under so and so bridge' etc. etc. Several different fishing clubs control the various stretches and mention 'specimen pike' in their blurb but very few anglers are to be seen fishing probably because of the challenging nature of the venue and also because the clubs also have many 'easy' still waters to fish where members tend to flock. Not that I'm complaining. I often have huge stretches of river completely to myself especially in the winter months, which I really enjoy. Those still water pike don't fight much anyway.
I do fish moving baits (lures and wobbled deads) occasionally in the summer (if I can drag myself away from the mullet) with some success. The odd sea trout and good perch also feature. The water at these times of year is usually clear enough for the methods to work although it can quickly colour up and this make takes more difficult to come by, so I generally try to fish when it clears again.
Most of the summer fish taken are smaller jacks and in fact I rarely get a double on these tactics. With the arrival of Autumn I spend a bit more time on the pike (once the mullet disappear) and this year did quite a bit with wobbled /twitched dead baits. I did catch, though once again the majority of the fish were small - the only decent doubles I had were on static deads...which brings me nicely on to my ‘winter proper' approach.
From November onwards the water always seems to carry a certain amount of colour. If we get rain of any consequence the river easily floods turns the colour of strong tea and can remain that way for days, even weeks afterwards, rendering it completely unfishable.... at least for pike. When the water fines down enough I'm out there having a go but always with static deadbaits. I have tried lures and wobbled deads in winter but it's very hard work indeed.
I have used livebaits also, which are extremely difficult to get anyway, but cannot say conclusively that they outfish deads - in fact I've often fished the two methods side by side when live bait has been available and curiously deads have sometimes fared better. All of the winter pike have a great deal of lice on them which I believe indicates that they are remaining still on the river bed for sometime but they are mostly fish of a much better size and looking back through my diary I’m as likely to get a double as a jack at this time of year on deadbait methods.
My static deadbait approach is far from 'static' though. Usually I fish two or three rods, up to 10yds apart and continually move a rod every 15-20 minutes in a leap-frogging style covering as much water thoroughly as is possible in a day. If features are present, sunken trees, deep bits, slacks (hard to find) etc, then obviously I'll get a bait in them, but generally it's a case of moving steadily, searching along a relatively featureless bank.
Each bait stays in place for no longer than an hour, usually less, and as I'm literally trying to drop a bait on a pike's snout I think this is long enough. I'm not convinced that there are any 'holding' features or 'hot spots' at least none that produce consistently. I have had a couple of fish (both doubles) from a single spot on one occasion, but rarely catch again from a noted feature. Repeat captures of the same fish are unheard of.
Although I mentioned that I think the pike lie static on the river bed for lengthy periods of time, I suspect that they do occasionally move about but are rarely 'on the move' if you know what I mean. Some say that pike on tidal reaches move when the tide changes direction - perhaps turning to face into the current. I can't conclusively comment on this as I've taken pike, in winter, at all states of the tide even on full flood which can be useless in the summer. What does seem to make a difference is the time of day. In the depths of winter I have caught quite a few fish in late morning. Not enough perhaps to be totally conclusive but it does seem to be a common occurrence.
With the water being coloured, I favour big, smelly, oily baits. Sardines are my favourite by far, though herring and mackerel (locally caught in summer) do reasonably well. Coarse deads, apart from lamprey are, I have to say, pretty useless.
The rig is a simple leger with a 2oz weight on a free running ring fished close in sometimes in up to 10ft of water. Whichever way the pike moves when taking the bait it will register as a positive take at the rod due to the heavy weight, unless the pike decides that she fancies the taste of lead as well! Drop backs or slack liners do not happen because of the flow. Line is tight to rod which is propped up high on one front rest (almost beach style) with an electric bite alarm and reel is set in baitrunner mode, or line held taut with a strong elastic band if an open bale arm is used (third rod). Like you Mike I'm not really one for gadgetry but the buzzers and baitrunners DO make a huge difference to how efficiently I can fish. I can't be doing with clipping on indicators which fall off in the strong current or with constantly having to adjust the depths floats are set at. Can't watch three floats at once anyway! Sometimes they just get swept under unless you use one the size of a mooring buoy! The baitrunners enable me to finely adjust the line tension to just overcome the flow but still give line to taking fish. When I move a rod it's - reel in, pick up one rest, move, cast out, tighten up, place rod back in rest and flick baitrunner lever. DONE! Also the bite alarms give an INSTANT unmissable, indication of the early stages of a take. I mostly tighten up quickly to twitches on the alarm and rod tip, full blown runs are rare. These pike don't tend to move off with the bait, seemingly preferring to munch it on the spot. I always use two treble hook traces and have NEVER had a throat hooked fish yet. I did try the circles and must admit to failing to contact a few fish, so I don't think they are so good in this application. I rarely fail to hook up on the two treble set up.
The fishing, though active, can be quite slow (certainly by your standards Mike) and blanks do occur but usually I pick up a fish or two on most outings. I'd like to think that I've adapted to the fishing available to me. It's really a case of persisting, being patient, and just enjoying being out there - which I do. As I say, usually I've got the whole river as far as I can see to myself (unless with a buddy) all day, apart from the herd of deer behind the flood bank, and the regular fleeting visit of a kingfisher or barn owl!
Though a pretty bleak, windswept environment, it's very peaceful.....until one of the bite alarms shatters the tranquillity and I leap up from my seat in anticipation, more often than not skidding clumsily on the mud!
This is what happened on Tuesday, New Year's Day, round about mid-day, resulting in my first ever pike of over the twenty pound mark (in fact an ounce under twenty one) from the river, after four seasons of trying for them and coming close with big doubles on several occasions.
Like all our fish, despite their winter 'inactivity' she fought strong and deep and due to the water colour showed herself only at the last minute on the surface for my mate Paul to neatly chin her out. He said afterwards that had he known it was a 'twenty' he'd have used the net. Quite a short 'girthy' fish, usually they are much leaner - perhaps this one had a good Christmas dinner. As you can see the markings are fairly dull in comparison to your pike. This is common on our fish, perhaps due to the low water clarity. Sometimes however they do display an almost 'electric' blue flank - not easily seen in the picture - but present on this fish. What a start to the new year! I was chuffed to say the least. The 'outfit' in the pic. is my occasional third rod, a 50 year old cane relic and equally antique reel, which had no trouble taming the old girl even without that new fangled 'baitrunner' device........... So there you go Mike, a different approach to piking, on a completely different river but no less fun!
All the best
p.s. Here’s a picture of a 16 pounder to my piking buddy Dave which clearly shows the 'electric' blue flanks of the local pike.
Interesting eh! If I go down to Jeff's place sometime I'm sure that I'll do better by copying his approach or at least by modifying my own tactics a bit.
Dave's sixteen pounder.