Monday, 2 March 2009

Brilliant Blithfield

This weekend was one that Joe and I have waited for for a very long time. It was to be the last of our four weekends on Blithfield reservoir this winter and the one we expected the most from. We were only able to fish one session at Blith last season, the last one, and it turned up a bumper catch for us with a twenty to me and three twenties to Joe so we were expecting big things.

It's been a tough winter there, as it has everywhere, due to the effects of the coldest winter for ten years. Every session has been dogged by freezing temperatures and the dreaded snowmelt - guaranteed to put pike off the feed. Big fish have been caught but many many people have found it hard going and up until this final session Joe and I had struggled too with only one big fish between us, a 22 pounder to Joe.

This session was different though, temperatures had been rising steadily for a couple of weeks and we were in no doubt that the fish would be on the feed. It pays to have a plan and our plan was a simple one, fish the shallows with lures for the first hour or two and then float-troll deadbaits - a technique which we've used to great effect on other waters but which hardly anyone was using at Blith.

They're Off!
We got away from the landing stages first on day one and raced off to our chosen spot ahead of all the other boats. Conditions were good with a steady, warm southwesterly and good cloud cover and we were frantic to get started. The spot we had chosen was free (well it would be, we were first out) but as we approached it I spotted a cormorant surfacing just a little further along the bank. It seemed likely that the cormorant had been feeding and since cormorants and pike eat the same sort of things I switched direction and we dropped anchor exactly where the ugly black beast had just been. I told Joe that we would have a big fish in the boat within the first five casts and clipped on a sinking slider while Joe countered with his favourite burt and we proceeded to lash the surface with them.

One cast, then two and three, still no fish. All too soon the five casts were made and nothing hit the lures, I was wrong then! Cast number six was made and after two flicks of the wrist the slider was hit. I heaved away at the fish, keen to get it to the boat; "Only small." I told Joe, but as the fish got closer to us it seemed to grow, and it pulled back, boring down under the boat. A good hard pull got it up to the surface and I let out a great whoop as Joe slipped the net under what was obviously a good pike. Fat as a pig and in superb condition she went 23lbs 6oz, my first twenty pounder of 2009 ending a twenties drought of some four months - I was well pleased!

Rubber Band Man
We had a couple more boils, bumps and follows on the shallows before it became clear that the shallow water action was over for the day and we set up our rods to troll baits as per the plan. It was quite a while before we had any action on the baits and it was Joe who had the first run but it came to nothing. Missing takes when you troll deadbaits is something that happens a lot. The big problem is that the bait masks the hooks and prevents a good hook-hold. We lost several fish at Chew the week before though and it had set me thinking about how to overcome it. Bigger hooks helps a lot but I had a little trick up my sleeve which I hoped would help. I've invented a rig I call the rubber-band rig. The picture shows how it works and hopefully will save me typing a long explanation but basically the way it works is that I loop a rubber band around the tail of the bait and attach one of the hooks to this rather than sticking it into the bait. This does a number of things. Firstly it sets a nice curve into the bait, causing it to spin seductively as it's trolled. Also it presents the hook clear of the body of the bait so that bait does not mask it. Finally it allows the hook to move independently of the bait on the strike, also increasing likelihood that the fish will be hooked.
I was already using the rubber band rig and after his missed run, Joe switched to it as well. Four more takes followed through the day. The first three produced a fourteen pounder to me and then we had a jack each, all were securely hooked on the rubber band hook. As the day was drawing to a close, Joe's trolled mackerel was taken by something that was clearly in a different league. He dragged the fish to the boat on the heavy tackle and as it surfaced we could see it was our biggest pike for some time.

I scooped it up in the big boat net and at once the hooks dropped out in the net - whew, that was close! 28lbs 9oz, Joe's second-biggest pike, click the pic and look at that smile.

All Downhill From Here
I'd love to be able to tell you that we repeated our success on the second day but it was not to be. the wind swung round to the north and turned bitterly cold making the shallows much more inhospitable for old Esox. Indeed it seems those fish that were caught came mostly from very deep water on slow-trolled soft plastics and our methods didn't turn up the fish. Only one hit between us all day - and it turned out to be a perch!

1 comment: said...

It's great to read about your Pike Fishing adventures in the UK - but odd for me to see you sitting in a boat in February... here in Canada, we are still ice fishing - even this late date of April 17 of 09!

And it's a wonder to me that northern pike in your lakes and rivers are so similar to northern pike here in Canada - I kinda scratch my head about that...

I've bookmarked your blog!

Tight lines!