Catch fish with Mike Ladle.

Catch Fish with
Mike Ladle


Information Page

Freshwater Fishing

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 several 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. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. 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).

Twice-hooked pike and a variety of fish.

Angling writers often mention innovations in rods, reels, lines, hooks, lures and so on. I suppose that the idea of this approach is to suggest that each 'new' bit of kit is an improvement and will put more/bigger/better fish on the bank or in the net. In practice this is rarely the case and, over the years, most of the improvements in catches made by me and my pals have been through observing fish behaviour. Even now, after all my years of angling, I still come across surprising (to me) facts which could be the basis for good bags in the future. This week there was a case in point.

I had decided to have an early morning session on one of my local rivers in search of perch. My usual approach is lure fishing with plugs or spinners but I also enjoy a spot of live-baiting with minnows as the attractor. As it happened I had a few maggots (mullet baits) in the fridge so I opted to try the live-bait option. I did not have long to fish as we had an early appointment so I decided to pick a placewhich usually produces both baits and predators and stick to it. When I began float fishing for baits (small hook and single maggot) at about 05:30, it was still pretty gloomy and bites were thin on the ground. For perhaps ten minutes there was not even a flicker of the float so when it shot under I was quite surprised and I missed it. Another five minutes and a second bite produced a 15cm perch - not my preferred bait but I put it in the bucket just in case. Over the next half-hour or so things livened up a bit and eventually I had, in my bucket, a dace of about the same size as the perch, a chub a little bit bigger, another small perch and a couple of gudgeon - still no minnows. By this time I thought that 'the writing was on the wall' and decided to try one of my captures as bait. My other rod was set up with a light paternoster with a short 15lb wire dropper and a size 6 circle hook. On went one of the gudgeon and I swung it out into perhaps two metres of water under a brisk flow.

I waited until the weight touched down and held the rod. It was not long before there was the tell-tale tug, tug, of a customer and as I slowly tightened I could feel the pull of a something heavier than my bait. The fish sheered about on the line and I knew at once that it was a small pike (there's no shortage of them in the river). I soon had it in the net, nicely hooked, so I took a picture and popped it back. Rather than mess about trying to catch minnows I hung on another of my gudgeon baits and swung it out. The next bite proved to be a perch of well under a pound - not very exciting but at least it was what I was after. I put on another bait and tried again. A couple of minutes later and there was a firm bite. 'Another pike' I thought as it ploughed around deep down. It felt heavier than the first pike but, to my surprise, as it surfaced I could see that it was a decent chub of perhaps four pounds. I reached for the net and as I did so the fish popped off the hook. "Buns!" I said. Out went another of my oversized baits and this time it was a larger pike (still nowhere near double figures) which, like the chub, came unstuck at the net.

Now it was getting close to 'last-cast-time' so I thought I'd try for a couple of minnows before packing in. Sure enough, now that it was brighter, the minnows were biting and I soon had a couple in the bucket. On went a minnow and I waited with anticipation. First cast nothing. I tried again and this time there was a solid resistance as my tiny weight jammed on the river bed and I lost the end gear. No time for an more fishing so I released my baits, all still alive and well, and packed in.

So, what did I learn that was useful? (1) Minnows were not easy to tempt in the darkness (I KNOW that they shoal near the surface after dark). (2) Bigger baits still tempt chub and perch (I was already aware of this but I MUST put it into practice in future). Just to finish off, when I got home my son Richard Skyped to tell me about a recently published, detailed, scientific paper about the science of technological improvements in recreational fishing tackle and tactics. Next time I'll try to give a summary of what it said.

No surprise - my first small pike.


...and the perch which followed, with the gudgeon bait.


A couple of days later - still reluctant to tramp along the seashore with my swollen leg - I decided to try the river for perch again. Once more I started early in the morning (about 05:45). This time I'd changed the set up to try and avoid losing gear by attaching a small, sacrificial weight and looping the swivel of the wire trace onto the nylon cast.. A little weight was needed to get down in the flow, which can be quite strong. Once more I spent twenty minutes or so catching a variety of small baits. Dace, bleak, gudgeon and minnows were in the bucket. Each time the nature of the bait was a sort of lucky dip, according to what I managed to grab. The first try was with a gudgeon and within a minute I felt a sharp pull which I was sure mean't pike. I tightened and the hook went home. Clearly it was a reasonable fish because it fought hard, this was confirmed when it cleared the water in a big leap. Then the fish made another long strong run and suddenly the line fell slack. When I wound in I found that my novel trace-attachment had allowed the swivel (and weight) to slide off in the course of the fight. "Nuts!" I said, and set about tying on another trace.

This time I'd learned my lesson and made sure that the trace was tied on securely. The next bait was a minnow which, as usual, I lip hooked and lobbed out. Within a minute I had another bite. Again there was no doubt that I was into a pike. This one did not fight quite as hard, and after a minute or two I slid it into the net. It was nicely hooked in the jaw so I picked up the pliers to remove the circle hook. It was only as I stooped to grip the hook that I realised there were two hooks and traces within millimetres of each other. It was the pike I'd lost on the previous cast.

There wasn't much more excitement but in the following hour or so I landed a smaller pike, nine or ten small perch, and lost another modest pike which came unstuck soon after being hooked. All in all an enjoyable session and back home by 07:30 for my breakfast. I enjoyed that - sometimes it's good to get one bite after another in quick succession, must do it again soon.

On my second trip - I had a pike a bit bigger which fought like stink - lost and then landed..


...a bit closer.


Then a smaller pike, which again fought well.


The small one ready for the net..


One of several small perch..


If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to -