Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

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).

17 December 2008.

Last gasp pike.

My pal Jeff Smith is, like me, a member of the National Mullet Club but, like many of my friends, he is a real all-round angler who enjoys fishing for anything that swims. Anyway, last year Jeff and I had an enjoyable piking session on my local river so, when he emailed me about the possibility of giving it another go I was keen to have a try.

We'd had a fair bit of rain lately so the rivers in Jeff's native Sussex were (he said) high, filthy and unfishable and he was quite surprised when I said that it would probably be fine down here in Dorset. When he arrived, as arranged, on the dot of 11a.m. we had a leisurely cup of coffee and a natter about fishing before setting off for the river. As I'd expected it looked fine with just a tinge of colour. The temperature was round about six degrees but there had been no frost and everything seemed good.

The first job was to catch a few baits. This could have been a problem. The first spot we tried seemed devoid of anything but salmon parr so after five or ten minutes we moved. This time we had it just right and within half-an-hour there were half-a-dozen decent dace in the bucket. Back to the car to pick up our pike tackle and off across to the main river. Most of Jeff's fishing in Sussex involves legered dead baits so he was keen to give the circle hooks and float tackle a try. He was using an egg shaped slider with a small lead to hold the bait down and I'd opted for a simple paternoster with a half-ounce weight.

At our first spot the baits had barely been in the water for ten seconds when Jeff gave a call. A pike had lunged out and seized his bait almost before he could tighten the line. In fact the fish shot away and seemed to hook itself. It zoomed off and thrashed about a bit then the hook came away. We surmised that it would probably have another go and, sure enough, a few minutes later I felt a pull on the paternoster. Clearly the pike had moved up a few metres and taken my bait. I tightened almost at once and the bait pulled out of the pike's mouth. I lowered it again and this time, when it bit, I waited a few seconds and hooked it firmly. Jeff netted it for me - not quite a double but a good start.

We tried a couple of other spots, one of which produced a fifteen pounder for me and then further upstream Jeff had another good bite that whipped the bait off the hook - not his day! I switched to a spoon but clearly it was not a day for lure fishing as I had no bites on it.

The afternoons are pretty short at this time of year so we decided to walk a mile or so downstream and have a last try in a couple of big slacks, they looked wonderful but there was nothing doing. We made our way back towards where the car was parked and had one 'last, last' go in a big pool at the end of a ditch. It was already getting quite gloomy but I was still hopeful that Jeff would break his duck. It was looking as though we were going to miss out when, for a last cast, we let Jeff's bait swim right to the far side of the ditch entrance. There was a big swirl and the float shot under. Shortly afterwards I netted a beautiful thirteen pounder, hooked in the lip on the circle hook, for my pal. Wonderful stuff!


Jeff float fishes maggots for a few baits.


Now he's after pike.  That bag's even bigger than the one I carry.


Jeff's baits were often inclined to try and hide in the marginal weeds.

Smallest pike.

This one escaped Jeff's gear only to take mine a few minutes later.

Last gasp.

This thirteen pounder saved Jeff from a blank at the last.