After the fluky zander I told you about in the last blog, I returned for a proper go, bivvying up for two days. The zander tend to feed at long range in this water and I put out roach deadbaits over 100 yards via my Microcat, each being dropped accompanied by four or five sectioned baits which had been soaked in fish oils. I was really confident of action, at least from the big pike the water holds if not from the zander. But I came home a beaten man 48 hours later. In all that time, I had just one pike about 12lb plus a dropped run that I am fairly sure was from a zander.
With the zander fishing apparently at full stop for everyone else also, I switched my attention for the last few sessions to another water I am targeting for big pike this winter. On the first two days, in mid October, I had just three runs on mackerel tail, but they were all nice fish between 13lb 8ozs and 15lb 4ozs. I was fascinated to see the most incredibly dense shoals of roach, stretching from the margins to well over forty yards from the bank. Perhaps that explained the plague of around thirty cormorants working the water. It might also explain the low number of runs to big deadbaits, but I rarely switch to small livebaits at this time of the year as you can be plagued by jacks. I would honestly rather blank than catch 4lb pike!
My tackle usually consists of some beefed up coarse fishing tackle, leader is 15 lb TFG redmist mono and heavy, 3.25 or 3.5 test curve rods deal with casting larger dead baits long distances.
The last two days have given me real hope that the coming winter could throw up something special. On Wednesday, after arriving at the crack of dawn, I was away on a joey mackerel almost before it was fully light. Ten minutes later, I was unhooking a lovely looking fish of 14lb 12ozs and when this was followed ten minutes later by a 12lb 6oz specimen the omens were looking good.
By mid morning, the strong southerly wind was really gusting, luckily directly behind me. That made an extra long cast with a large deadbait straightforward and at midday a half mackerel was picked up at about seventy yards range by something that felt very big indeed. I have never felt that pike are particularly impressive fighters, when compared with carp or barbel, but this one wanted to give me a scrap. I managed to pump it within about thirty yards fairly easily but then the fun started. I lost count of the times I had it within feet of the net cord before it surged off again, taking yards of line against the clutch. I suppose it was a good fifteen minutes after the run that the fish eventually folded into the net, and I could see that it was certainly a twenty plus. When I had it on the unhooking mat, I saw a magnificent, darkly mottled fish in absolutely tip top condition. It took the scales to 23lb 8ozs, a great start to the winter campaign.
There was to be one more fish before I packed up at dusk, another chunky fish of 15lb 9ozs, to complete a quartet with a very pleasing average size. I was back in the same swim yesterday morning and again the dawn period did not disappoint. This time, however, I had two runs simultaneously, making my decision to set up two landing nets a wise precaution. Once I’d landed the first fish, it was placed safely in the net in the margins while I dealt with the other fish. Both were safely unhooked and released, two more cracking fish of 17lb 12ozs and 19lb 4ozs. Again, they were in brilliant condition.
After that dawn flurry, there was to be no more action until mid afternoon, when the third and last fish put in an appearance. Again, it was a nice double of 16lb 12ozs, maintaining the quite remarkable average size. I also had two baits picked up by cormorants. Luckily, they both dropped the baits. Aren’t they the most horrible birds! This winter could produce something exciting. Although I’ve had lots of 20lb plus pike in my career, I’ve only had two over 25lbs. My target is to make that three before the season’s over.
For all those of you into e-books, I have just placed my third book on Kindle. The first two were titled Top Tactics for Big Barbel and Top Tactics for Big Chub and the titles really say it all. The newest book is called My Big Fish Life and is an autobiography of over 50 years of specimen hunting. It runs to well over 150 pages with 100 plus photographs and is priced at only around £4. I would welcome feedback from all those of you who have my Kindle books or intend to get them, as I intend to complete the Top Tactics series with all the major coarse species.