Thursday, 2 April 2015

Magic March

March came with a bang for me, the river looked good just for a few days and I managed to find one of its gems. I visited some of the many club stretches I have access to and spent a few days there getting to know some unfamiliar lengths and, naturally, targetting them with lures. The fishing was tough at first as is often the way when you're finding your feet on new water but slowly, I got the feel of the river here and started to pick up fish. Double figure pike started to come but the clock was against me over the three day period with a falling, clearing river meaning my chances of a big catch were starting to diminish.

On the last day of the three, my knowledge base had been built up inside my head but the river was lower and clearer than I would like. Some of the pools now were shallow and with little current and so I took the unusual step of abandoning my usual swimbait approach and instead opted to use jerkbaits. Jerkbaiting is a finesse method, despite what many think, it's all about teasing the fish with a slowly worked lure, mesmerising them with that tick-tock walk the dog action until their tiny brain suffers information overload and they have little option left but to revert to type, and kill!

The first fish was a twelve pounder. This was sitting in a very shallow pool on the inside of a big bend, just under the shade of a small bush. I flicked out a floating slider and walked it back across the little pool and the fish grabbed it at the surface just as it neared the bankside vegetation. I returned the fish and moved on to another pool.

Nothing happened for a while until I reached a small point with a slack behind it. It was difficult to cast here due to there being a withy bed in the way but I managed to swing a lure around the stems and jerk it back with a sideways, backhand motion so that the line didn't catch on the twigs. The lure, again a slider, was hit out in open water by a very thin fourteen pound fish which didn't fight too well and was dragged unceremoniously to the bank with little protest. I unhooked this fish and returned it.

No more fish in that swim so I moved on a short way downstream. I was still in the lee of the small point here so there was an area of slack water but the slack was narrower here with pacy water just five yards out. I could see that there was some depth however, a little gully just off the bank, and I reasoned that there might be a fish sitting in it. I changed to a swimbait, a bulldawg copy in fact, dropped it into the gully a drew it back slowly. The lure came back towards me followed by a the olive green head of a pike, a big pike, but the fish turned away at the last moment and dashed back into its hole. I cast the lure several more times but the fish didn't return so I switched it for a large  Phantom jerkbait which I worked slowly through the swim. The pike came up for this lure, it was intereted but it was unsure and turned away again. I cast the lure again and again it followed, and again, and again. In all the fish must have followed the lure seven or eight times, each time turning away quite fast and leaving a vortex as it did so. This was a spooky fish allright and I decided that I would rest her and try again later in the day.

I walked back to the car where I made a cup of tea and had a sandwich and I also picked up some deadbaiting gear and a couple of herrings from the cool box. I was determined to catch the big fish and while I would prefer to get her on a lure, I'm not too proud to resort to deadbaits if I have to. I walked back downstream but didn't go back to the spot where the big fish was at first, instead I stopped off at another pool which I had not fished earlier. This was again a shallow, gravelly spot just behind a bush which somehow had taken root in the river and was diverting the current. I put the floating slider back on and dropped it just beyond the bush and began to work it back. I could see it clearly zig-zagging from side to side and I could also clearly see the pike just behind it swinging its head from left to right in tune with the lure.

The lure swung left, so did the pike, the lure swung right, the pike followed. It was a nice fish, maybe seventeen or eighteen pounds and I had to do something to make it take before I ran out of water and the lure hit the bank. In the end, I did the only thing I could do, I stopped the retrieve and let the lure hang in the water. The pike stopped, looked at the lure for maybe five seconds and then opened its mouth and gulped it in. What happened next was the biggest surprise of all. I had seen the mouth open, I had seen the lure disappear completely and I had seen the mouth close shut yet when I struck, I felt nothing at all, the lure just flew out of the water and whistled past my ear. I watched as the pike sidled back to its lie, both of us utterly confounded by what had happened. I got that fish to follow the lure on the next cast but that was it, it wasn't going to come again and so I moved on, it was time to try for the big one again.

I moved on the spot where the fish lived and clipped on the big Phantom once more. Staying well back from the water's edge so as not to spook the fish, I cast out the lure and worked it back slowly just under the surface. The lure was less than a foot from the bank when the big fish hit, I struck, but this time there was no mistake; "Gotcha!" I said out loud as the rod bent over and the pike started to thrash, half in and half out of the water. I fumbled for the net and stuffed it into the water but made a right hash of things as a loose hook from the lure caught in the mesh making it impossible to net the fish. There was nothing else for it, I was going to have to hand-land this one. I hate hand-landing, it scares the life out of me and it's really not good for the fish but I had no choice, I grabbed the line with my left hand, worked my fingers under the pike's gill plate and hauled her onto dry land, complete with the tethered net.

The hook came out easily and I weighed the fish at 28lbs 10oz, my biggest pike of the season and my last pike from the river until the autumn comes, I couldn't have ended the river season any better than this!

Next on the itinerary was the annual trip to the Lake of Menteith with Mrs Edwards and for a change, although it was a cold day, it didn't rain or snow on us. The fishing was hard, with only one twenty pound plus pike caught between sixty anglers and once again I was upstaged by Clare who had four pike to my none. Her best fish was a fifteen pounder, a personal best which took a half mackerel float legered on the bottom. Almost all the fish caught took deadbaits with very few fish taken on lures and despite lure fishing for most of the day, all I had to show for it was a follow from a small jack. The Lake is a lovely place but I really will have to think long and hard about going back. The fishing is poor now and steadily getting worse. I don't know why this should be, but it's falling into line with so many other places where the pike fishing has deteriorated to the point where it isn't worth making the effort.

Onwards and upwards as they say and at last I've moved on to a new stillwater, and registered the booat there too. It's early days yet but results have been encouraging after two trips with pike to 18lbs 15oz and perch to 2lbs 2oz. It's pretty much all lure fishing at this new place, which suits me just fine and the new bow-mount Minn Kota with iPilot is proving its worth. The spot lock facility enables me to keep the boat in one position, more or less, without having to anchor at all and the speed and direction control enables me to work along a bank dead slow, casting lures as I go. In this respect it's very much like casting and drifting using a drogue except that  I'm no longer at the mercy of the wind speed or direction.

The eighteen pounder was the first fish I caught, I'm hoping to better that soon though, and maybe get myself a twenty or two.

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