Thursday, 13 March 2014

Rarest of the Rare

The wet end to 2013 turned into the wet beginning of 2014 and together they became the wettest winter we've ever had. It was windy too, too windy to get the boat out on the big lake most of the time and on the odd occasion when i did manage it, the fishing was worse than I've ever known it there. Two low doubles on one trip, two jacks on the next and then nothing at all on the third. Those few fish that were caught seemed to favour lures but the bait fishing has been just terrible. Interestingly enough, bait fish have become very scarce it seems. In years gone by I could find huge shoals of what were presumably roach but they are nowhere to be seen so while most people are putting the demise of the lake down to overfishing it might well be that there is another mechanism at work, something that's affecting the bait fish as well.

With the big lake out of action due to the wind and the river out of the question due to the floods I've been trying a couple of local waters - with very little success, and had another trip to the canal where I caught the nineteen pounder last time. The canal was a little different to the way it was in December, much more coloured and with heavier boat traffic and I found the bait fish very difficult to catch whereas before, they had been easy. I did catch a few though, and after fishing maggots for a while I put out a float paternostered live hybrid to try to attract a pike. It certainly worked, the bait was taken literally within seconds and after a good scrap I netted a super 21lb 3oz pike. I was pleased to catch the fish, of that there's no doubt, but it was tinged with a little disappointment when I got home and uploaded the pictures only to find that it was the same fish as the nineteen pounder I caught in December, now a little heavier with spawn in its belly.

I caught no more fish on the canal and while it's clear that there are good pike to be had there I doubt that it will ever be more than a stopgap water for me, for use when other venues are out of sorts. The "other venue" I've really been wanting to fish was the river of course but this winter has been so frustrating. There have been spells when the rain had eased just for a few days but each time the river level got down to something reasonable I found myself busy with something else. Others found the time when I couldn't and they had good fish, which just made things worse for me (all credit to them though).
One trip in February when the water was still really too high and the colour still too bad saw me land just two pike, a scraper double and a nine pounder, both to lures but it was hard going so I bided my time until, at long last, the conditions were right.

I arrived late on Monday afternoon. The level was ok, if anything a little low now, but the colour was worse than I would have chosen. I only had an hour or so to fish before dark and in that time I failed to tempt any pike. Darkness fell, I cooked up a meal and went up to the pub for a pint before bedding down in the car. Next morning I was up bright and early well before daybreak and fuelled with a light breakfast and a big mug of tea I was soon out on the bank casting my lures. The water had cleared a little but was still well coloured and it was quite a tough morning. The first fish, a three pound jack, came quickly but then I suffered a series of lost fish, three in all, which just didn't take the lure well enough. Eventually I had a better fish, one of around thirteen pounds, which had a lost bait trace down its throat, stitching it up. I got the trace out quite easily and returned the pike before moving on and in the next swim I took two fish, a twelve pounder and a super 20lb 15oz pike which brightened my mood a great deal. I was using my new GoPro video camera, strapped to my chest, and was lucky enough to capture the capture on film, here it is:

I moved on again and soon picked up another pike of around twelve pounds, again on the heavy soft plastic swimbait. That was five pike landed so far, including a good one, the day was shaping up very nicely but I really wasn't prepared for what was to follow.

I picked a tight little swim between two bushes, less than six feet apart, and dropped the swimbait in just at the edge of the current. I allowed the lure to sink and then started the retrieve which stopped abruptly when something big and powerful siezed it. I knew at once that this was a good fish, it stayed deep, wallowing but showed no signs of making a run. I pulled hard and soon a great green head broke the surface. "That's a thirty pounder", I spoke out loud, even though there was no-one else there. I looked in horror at the hookhold, the huge fish was hooked by a single prong of the treble in the very edge of its lip. "I'm going to lose this!", again I spoke out loud.

I leapt down the bank and stuffed the landing net into the water, trying to hustle the pike before the hook tore free but this only panicked it (that made two of us) and it turned and ploughed into the lefthand bush. The branches of the bush clattered and banged as the fish thrashed about beneath the surface and I waited, expecting at any moment that the lure was going to fly back but the fish stayed connected and came back to the open water beneath my feet, still boring deep. I lifted its head to the surface once more and with abject terror I saw that the skin around the hookhold had torn and that I was now connected to the fish by a single hook prong around a thread of skin which, though still connected at each end, was flapping free of the actual mouth.
"I'm definitely going to lose this!" the one-sided conversation continued and the fish turned away from me and headed out into open water. I flicked the multiplier into free spool and applied only gentle thumb pressure on the drum, giving the fish its head for a few moments and allowing it to take line. This did the trick, the fish slowed to a halt and I coaxed it gently back towards me and towards the waiting net. It wallowed a little on the surface, rolling over in the process and I took advantage of its disoriented state, scooping it into the net with some difficulty due to its enormous length. It shook its head one last time, the flap of skin finally gave way and the lure flew out, lodging in the bush on the right, too late though, she was mine!

With no need for an unhooking process I weighed her quickly, 30lb 8oz and then gazed at her lying on the mat. She was bruised and battered from months of combating the floodwaters but there she lay, a thirty pound pike caught on a lure from a spate river, in pike fishing terms, the rarest of the rare.


Darren Roberts said...

Brilliant, well done. What a way to finish the season !


Danny Hale said...

Great session Eric, some potential that river has !

Keith Dutton said...

Well done Eric, great fish and great film