Sunday 27 November 2016

March Madness

I feel that I really should fill in some gaps after my self imposed absence. I had a difficult start to 2016 because of a severe chest infection which really put me on my back for the last two months of the season. It was a great shame, the season had gone very well before Christmas and I expected the success to continue after it but I just could not go fishing and spent those weeks coughing and wheezing at home in the warm. It was such a bad illness that it lasted well into the autumn and indeed, I'm not sure I'm free of it even now. I spent the time swapping symptoms with Wayne Fletcher, fellow Team England member who contracted something similar at around the same time. Poor old Wayne still has to go to work as well as fish so it was even worse for him. Anyway, enough of my troubles, let me tell you about a day I had back in the early Spring, mid-March in fact.

A Gentle Stroll

With the rivers closed and my health improving slowly I managed a rare day's fishing with my good friend Karl Devlin. It was to be just a few hours chucking lures and in reality, I expected us to catch a few jacks and nothing more. I really wanted to ease my way back into it and a gentle walk with a small pack containing a few jerkbaits seemed the obvious answer. I chose a water which I had fished before, just twice, but where I had never caught a single pike.

I picked Karl up and made the short drive to the water, pulling into the empty car park; "That's good." I thought, no-one else here, we won't be troubled by the carpiker brigade. We loaded up with the little gear we had brought and set off marching. The plan was to walk to the far end of the fishery and then "leapfrog" each other, fishing each swim in turn until we got back to the car and as it was a fair way to the last swim, it took us quite a while, especially my with my chest still burning in the frosty air.

We started off fishing. I selected a floating Salmo slider as my first choice lure. These lures tend to fish in the top two to three feet of water and since I didn't know the place too well that seemed like a good choice. Floating sliders don't get caught up too badly in weed or other snags and they cast like bullets so it's possible to cover each swim out to a range of sixty yards or so.

Each swim was searched out with the floating slider and if the weed and snags were not too bad I would then switch to a deeper running lure. It's one of the lure fishing systems that I employ and I find it works for me but this wasn't a serious fishing session anyway, it was just a bit of fun. I fished the first swim then moved on past Karl who was in swim number two, into swim number three, then Karl moved past me into the next swim and so on. This went on until I settled into a swim that really looked the business. There were a number of features in this spot that made it look good, snags close in, a line of overhanging bushes that could be worked, but above all it just "felt" right.
The Deadly Salmo Slider

A Big Surprise!

I had a couple of casts with the slider and I liked what I saw. The water was clear here, I could see the lure twisting its way back and forth and it looked so appealing that I expected a hit any moment. I made another cast and just at that moment Karl arrived; "Well you've found yourself a nice spot here." he said. Yes, Karl could see it too, this was a swim with potential. We exchanged views on the swim, it's snags, the clear water, the line of bushes, and all the while my lure was sinking ever so slowly through the water, dragged down by the weight of the leader. Our conversation must have lasted fifteen or twenty seconds and then it was interrupted by a violent wrench on my rod. A fish had taken the motionless lure, and it was a big fish!

I pulled the pike in on the unforgiving jerkbait tackle and as it came close to the bank it was clear that this fish was easily over twenty pounds. Karl scooped her up in the big net and we hauled her onto dry land where the hooks were quickly removed. It was only now that we realised that our keenness to keep the weight down had resulted in neither of us bringing a set of scales, we could not weigh the damn thing!

We had a camera though so we took a few pictures and I made an guess at the weight. At first I though she might make 25lbs but on reflection I reduced that to 23lbs and I think that was a pretty close estimate. I subsequently met someone who had had the same fish six months earlier at a weight just under 21lbs. The photographs of it at that weight showed it to be very thin whereas it was pretty chunky when I had it so I'm happy with my estimated weight.

The 23 pounder

Another Chance

With the fish returned Karl and I had a little chat about the swim. It was clear that our feelings about this spot were well-founded and so I told Karl that it was his turn. "There's bound to be another fish or two here." I told him. Karl put on a six inch green replicant and began casting. It wasn't long before his rod hooped over; "I'm in" he said. The fish put up a spirited fight but it was clear from the start that this was no twenty pounder. He hauled it unceremoniously to the net and we had it on the bank with the hooks out in seconds. Six or seven pounds in weight, the pike sported a big scar down one flank, a scar that might have been inflicted by another, much larger pike.

Karl's Pike, Complete with Bite Mark.

Karl returned the fish quickly. "Your turn again." he said. I thought for a moment and I decided to change lures, to change to the sinking slider which would work the deeper water more effectively. I clipped it on and cast it a long way out. If floating sliders cast well then sinking sliders cast better than well, there is no lure that can cast further in my experience.

I jerked and twitched the lure back to me, pausing occasionally and allowing the lure to sink deeper and deeper into the trench which was clearly closer to my bank than it was to the far one. As it reached the deepest point, a hard pull on the rod tip signified another fish on the line. I struck hard and found that I had a heavy weight to deal with. "This one is bigger", I exclaimed, "It's a beast!"

I heaved hard on the fish and brought it close to the bank where I could see that there was a loose hook hanging outside of it's mouth. This caused me to panic a little when Karl submerged the net, fearing the loose hook snagging the mesh. We soon had her though and at once it was clear that this fish was much bigger than the first.

A Problem

I catch twenty-three pounders quite often but this one was well over 25lbs, of that there was no doubt, and so I really wanted to get a weight for this fish. I knew a local angler who might be able to come down with some scales and so I called him. Yes, he could make it (though he missed out on some overtime to do so) and before long we had the fish on the scales and recorded a weight of 27lbs 8oz. A brace of pike for more than 50lbs in consecutive casts, not bad when you consider that we only expected a few jacks. These were my first two fish from the water as well, that made it all the more sweet.
My friend who came to weigh the fish was maybe a little jealous; "I've fished here for thirty years and never had a fish close to this size," he said, "You jammy bastard!"


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