Fly Fish For Pike This Winter

Sick of the local grayling river always being in flood? Tired of catching identikit stocked rainbows on a small stillwater? If you are looking for a new challenge to keep you going over the long winter months, then why not give pike fly fishing a go? Trust us, it’s fun!

Pike on the fly!

Pike on the fly!

In recent years interest in pike fishing has grown exponentially, and they are now recognised as a true sportfish by anglers across the UK and Europe. It’s fighting prowess and willingness to take a fly with gusto make it an ideal species to pursue in the winter months, a time when other fish species are less active and harder to catch.

Pike are a commonly found fish in UK water ways – chances are there is a canal, drain, gravel pit or coarse fishing lake right on your doorstep with fishing available for just a few pounds. These smaller venues are often easier to tackle for those wishing to start out with a fly, rather than massive intimidating reservoirs where fish location is much harder. Plus it’s far easier on the wallet if you fancy just a few hours out to flex the fly rod, and try and catch a few fish on a winters afternoon.

Pike can reach very large sizes with 20lb plus often caught by deadbait and lure anglers, depending on whether the water holds them.  However your run of the mill captures on fly tackle will most likely be jack pike of perhaps 5/6lb in weight with the odd double mixed in on your typical waters, although you just never know what might come along and engulf your fly- check out the 40 pounder from Chew valley lake caught on fly fishing tackle below!

A 40lb pike from Chew valley lake - March 2015

A 40lb pike from Chew valley lake – March 2015

The tackle: What do you need?

Fly Rod: Casting big flies is the main issue. Being large and air resistant you need a fast action rod of a higher line rating to throw them. Line weights from 8 to 10 are needed to do the job. I personally recommend a 9 foot 9 weight rod; the Bluetooth nano fly rods from Airflo are just ideal. Although there are many other suitable rods on the market ranging from £100 upwards.

9 foot is the critical length for casting a pike fly. Longer rods increase leverage and in doing so make distance casting, accuracy and tight loops much harder to achieve. They are also more tiresome on the arm. One tip is to use a cast aid or tuck the butt of the rod into your jacket sleeve. This helps prevent wrist break and the handle giving you blisters and will ultimately improve comfort and also rod control.

Fly Line: A short compact head line with an aggressive from taper is essential both for turnover and distance. The Airflo Forty plus Sniper fly lines with their 28 foot heads are just ideal. Tough, durable and able to throw a 6 inch fly well over 30 yards they simply are the best on the market in my opinion. A non-stretch core also helps set the hooks and feel takes. Available in floating, intermediate, Di3 and Di7 there is a sniper fly line to cover all depths and eventualities.

If I had to pick just ONE fly line to start with it would be an intermediate. You can use it to search the layers and fish the fly really slow – which the pike absolutely love.

A jack pike landed on 9 weight fly rod.

A jack pike landed on 9 weight fly rod.

Fly Reel: For your reel choose something that will accommodate your line, and balance your rod. Don’t make the mistake of getting a whopping great salmon reel because you have a 10 weight line. It’s all about balance. Better to have a smaller reel with less backing, than a huge reel. Do not worry about backing – these fish make short powerful runs, but are not known to empty out a reel. So 20 – 30 yards or whatever it takes to fill your reel will more than suffice.

A jack pike caught on the fly rod.

A pretty pike caught on the fly rod, in an upland lake.

Leader and Accessories: One of the most important things to have is a leader with a wire trace. There are several ways to make one yourself, typically with stiff fluorocarbon from at least 15lb upwards with traditional pike rig wire that is used to make deadbait traces.

You can however get a ready made titanium predator polyleader from Airflo. These things not only turn over perfectly, but also allow you to change your flies very easily. The titanium wire they use simply will not kink  – it can last just as long as a fly line does.

A set of long forceps is another essential, as is an unhooking matt and landing net of a sufficient size.

The jaws of death - Airflo titanium predator leader in use.

The jaws of death – Airflo titanium predator leader in use.

The Tactics:

Retrieve: Pike like all sorts of retrieves, just like trout. A quick rolly-polly or fast strip can sometimes provoke a fierce strike if the pike are active or in a chasing mood. However the more effective cold water retrieve from experience is a slow figure of eight – just enough to work the fly slowly through the layers, just like a dead or dying fish. Intersperse with the odd longer strip, and pause and hang the fly along the retrieve.

This is something unique to fly fishing. When spinning with an artificial lure you simply cannot slow it down enough. On pressured lure fished waters the ultra slow fly retrieve can be a killer method. For this reason I like an intermediate line the most – you can inch it back in.

A fly fishing presentation suits the winter pikes metabolism – they are sluggish and want to conserve energy, but a slow moving prey item that requires just a little bit of energy to inhale rather than a full on charge is an easy meal. If nothing is happening make sure you mix it up retrieves to find what works best on the day.

A last knockings river pike - victim of the slow retrieve and intermediate line.

A last knockings river pike – victim of the slow retrieve and intermediate line.

Location: Pike like structure so start with targeting anything obvious – weed bed edges, wood or trees gong into the water, obvious drop offs, dam walls etc. Pike can often be just feet out from the shore, so don’t neglect casting right along the bank edges. Remember to fan cast and search a new area each cast – often if a pike is there it will react on the first chuck. Covering fresh water can be the key.

Sometimes the bigger pike can be found in deep open water or suspended mid water. These type of pike tend to be resting up digesting a meal but can be provoked into taking a fly worked across their snouts. This is where your faster sinking lines really come into play for dredging the bottom.

In late winter pike often move into shallower waters in a pre-spawn migration. So pay particular attention to old weed beds and shallow areas in February and March. Even water a few feet deep will hold pike in early spring.

The take: When the takes comes it often feels like no more than a pluck or gentle pull, just like weed. Resist the temptation to strike, just keep on going and you should find the line locks up. This is vital for getting a good hook up. When you are sure you are into the fish, strip-strike hard pulling down with your hand, then lift the rod into the fish. A quick knee jerk reaction lift of the rod will often result in a missed fish or hook pull.

The flies: Pike flies sized from 3 to 6 inches are typical, tied on hooks 2/0 to 6/0, although you can catch on much bigger and smaller patterns, such as zonkers. Try and imitate any prey fish you spot in the water. Perch and roach in particular are a pike’s favourite so bring some flies to mimic them.

A yellow fly can be deadly in cold cloudy water.

A yellow fly can be deadly in cold cloudy water.

Bright Yellow is a favourite colour of mine – for some reason pike seem to like it in cold muddy water. In clear cold water pink can also work really well. Red, white and black flies also all have their days. On very bright sunny days flies tied purely of flashy tinsel are my choice. These will draw pike up from deep water or from distance.

It’s also worth taking some buoyant flies. They can be fished booby style on a sinker, or waked and glugged across the surface. Even in winter pike will strike near the top if they are in shallow enough water.

Pike taken on a bouyant fly.

Pike taken on a buoyant fly.

Tying a pike fly is great fun. We sell plenty of materials to do this at Fishtec. The Sakuma manta sea hooks are the pike fly tier’s choice. Razor sharp and with just the right proportion they are wonderful hooks. If you do not tie your own, the superb predator flies by Fulling mill are a cut above many others available commercially.

A pike fly tied to imitate a baitfish.

A pike fly tied to imitate a baitfish.

Some fulling mill pike flies - very effective patterns!

Fulling mill pike flies – very effective patterns!

How to handle a pike: Now you have landed your first one you need to unhook and return to the water ASAP. Pike are fairly fragile fish and do not tolerate mishandling or being out of the water for too long. However unhooking a pike caught on the fly is far easier with a large single fly hook than with any other method. I advise turning the pike upside down on the unhooking mat whilst you do it – they will be a lot calmer and cooperative! With care you can slide your hand under the gill plate to hold open the mouth, allowing you to get in with a forceps and push the fly out. Pressing down the barb will help with a quick release. Take time to revive the pike fully before releasing to fight another day.

Spend some time reviving your pike catch.

Spend some time reviving your pike catch.

Happy hunting!

13 Brilliant Blogs From British Pikers

pike

Catch of the day

The pike season’s well under way, and doubtless you’re spending all your free time at the water with your flies, lures and baits to see how much you can improve your personal best by. If you’re rained out though, you might want to take a few tips from some other pikers.

We’ve found 13 of the best, so sit back, relax and read your fellow pikers’ tales and tips. Which is your favourite?

Andrew Black Fishing

andrew black

Image source: andrewblackfishing.co.uk
31lbs of angling satisfaction

“If you want to catch big pike, you have to fish for them”. Anglers’ Mail writer, Andrew Black’s pretty clear on that point, and for him that means being single minded and really working for those fish. Being first on the water, and travelling long distances are both very familiar for him.

Andrew’s pike season tends to start fairly early, in September. He has found, however, that the warmer waters mean that the fish are quite lively when feeding. They can engulf baits, which means your handling and unhooking methods need to be spot on for fish welfare. Check out his other observations, and don’t expect all your lures back in one piece!

Fishing later in the season can be unpredictable. Arriving at Chew in October felt like a bit of a chore to Andrew, but landing a 31lb pike at the end of the day just proves that you have to be there when the fish turn on, whether you feel like it or not!

An anglers dangling log

caught fish

Image source: ananglersdanglinglog.blogspot.co.uk
A fine catch from the waterside

Once you’ve got your gear and have had a bit of instruction, you’re ready to go and fish on your own. But what kind of water is best? Jason Skilton’s quick guide to what the different kinds of waters have to offer pike anglers. Smaller waters (under 50 acres) and rivers are a good place to start, but the true monsters are to be found in the 100 acre-plus lakes and reservoirs.

Fishing is a way of life, rather than a hobby for Jason. His blow by blow accounts of battles with these predators are a great read, and the fact that he’s netting pike that he already knows from previous catches will raise a smile.

An active member of the Pike Angling Club, Jason spends a lot of time writing and debating burning angling issues. But, like any angler, he knows the importance of getting the “Fix”. Even with a quick two hour excursion, he can still inspire you with his catch of pike, perch and chub!

Danny’s Angling blog

pike fishing

Image source: satonmyperch.blogspot.co.uk
Pike-fishing crazy!

After years spent fishing for dace and chub, blogger, Danny had many run ins with the predatorial pike, so rather than let it spoil his angling, he put together a pike rod and started fishing for them instead!

If you’re looking for ways to increase your deadbait’s effectiveness, Danny’s got a good tip: pike oil injected into deadbait will disperse in the water and exploit the fish’s sense of smell, attracting them to your line. Oil’s now a must have in his armoury!

You can’t question Danny’s commitment to the sport. A pre-dawn run-in with the Police when he was digging out a peg in the dark worked out fine in the end, but his comment about burying a body might not have gone down too well!

Crooked Lines

dominic garnett

Image source: dgfishtales.blogspot.co.uk
Dominic Garnett – author, angler

Even when he’s laid up with man-flu, “Tangles with Pike” author, Dominic Garnett, is still thinking about fishing, and his reviews of “The One That Got Away” and “Fallon’s Angler” will give you some good ideas of which fishing book to pick up next.

Dominic’s happier when he’s fishing, though. His love of being in the water shines through in his ‘Wading into trouble’ post. He guarantees you’ll find seldom-touched waters if you get a pair of waders, find the rough bits, and “get used to the feeling of cold water up to your bollocks”.

Even though Dominic’s not a bailiff, he still cares about the fish. He managed to send one angler packing from a steep bank on the Somerset levels, after he turned up with no net or landing mat. As Dominic says: “until all of us start challenging such poor practise the result will be dead and damaged fish”

Predator People

Your guide to the Norfolk Broads

Image source: norfolkpikeman.wordpress.com
Your guide to the Norfolk Broads

Norfolk fishing guide Allan Griffiths takes his clients out on the Broads all year round. He’ll often send them home with a new PB, after having caught some of the monster Norfolk pike, with plenty of high doubles and twenties to be had.

It’s not always a simple day on the water, however. Read Allan’s spooky tale of a Christmas past, where he dreamt he was a lowly serf, employed to take his master’s guests hunting and fishing. His story of a 55lb pike and a ghostly girl will send a shiver up your spine.

Allan’s nightmares aren’t just in his sleep, and it’s more than the pike that sometimes frustrate him. How would you feel if you were out fishing and an otter turned out to be your biggest competitor, dragging a 5lb fish onto the bank right in front of you?

North East Piker

yorkshire pike

Image source: northeastpiker.blogspot.co.uk
Fine fishing on Yorkshire waters

Outfished by a kingfisher on the opposite bank, Yorkshire angler, Darren Roberts switched from dead to live bait, and within half an hour, he had 14lb 6 of pike in his net! The kingfisher probably had the better outing though, because that was Darren’s only notable catch that day.

Darren’s another angler who’s aggrieved by nature’s fishing competitors. In his ‘Otter Devastation’ post, he shows a series of pictures of bream and a pike double that have suffered the jaws of the fisherman’s foe.

A dab hand in the DIY department, Darren also makes some of his own tackle. Moulded leads, dowel floats and bleach bottle drifters are all part of his repertoire – check them out and see if you can make some yourself!

Ordinary Angler

predator fishing

Image source: ordinaryangler.blogspot.co.uk
A satisfying predator catch!

After slashing his thumb to bits unhooking a young pike, angler, Ian Firkins thought he’d had his share of accidents for the day. He hadn’t finished with disaster though, as he also stepped on his glasses, and lost more blood to an incident with another pike’s gill rakers!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Ian’s accident prone. After a pike tried to nab a roach from the line as it was being lifted from the water, Ian managed to net a couple of decent perch. The pike took its turn in the net, but got its revenge, sinking its teeth into Ian’s hand. He still had a numb thumb at the end of the day – let’s hope there’s no permanent damage.

Ian’s no stranger to the early mornings, sometimes leaving at 5:30am to get to the River Soar. It doesn’t always result in mega catches, but he does get some interesting fishing in. Read how leapfrogging his rods gave him a couple of good catches, but also a frustrating pike unhooking itself on the margins

Pike Anglers club

pac member

Image source: pikeanglersclub.co.uk
PAC member Phil Wakeford with a fine specimen

Whether you’re a record-breaking expert, or an absolute novice, you’re welcome at the PAC. Uniting pike anglers across the UK, the club holds an annual Convention, as well as organising several events offering privileged access to top venues including the Lake of Menteith and Boddington reservoir.

Whether you’re a member or not though, there’s plenty on the site for you. PAC offers helpful advice on handling pike which is invaluable to the newer pike angler. Always have your unhooking and weighing equipment ready and to hand – it’s better to save time when you’ve netted your catch than to mess around and risk stressing the fish more than necessary.

If you want to write about your pike fishing adventures, PAC welcomes submissions for Pikelines, their quarterly magazine. Whether you want to write about a memorable catch or days fishing, submit photographs, or write a more technical piece, new authors and photographers are given every encouragement and assistance. Write on!

Pike Blog

brian roberts

Image source: pikeblog.com
Pike blog – it’s not written by the pike!

Another early-rising piker, Brian Roberts’ recent 4am journey’s start to the Test Valley resulted in a fine day’s fishing. The pike there don’t top a double, but they put up a good fight on a light lure set up. 8 jacks gave Brian 221/2lb to add to his Predator Challenge.

An accomplished cartoonist, Brian’s series ‘Jack’s Pike’ makes regular appearances on his blog. Follow the capers of Jack, his friend Bob, and Jack’s long-suffering wife Tracy as Jack takes on everything the river can challenge him with!

Speaking of rivers’ challenges, beware the temptation to find another swim if your current one’s quiet! Brian was only away exploring for two minutes before his friend had to hit a 16lb 12 pike on his rig rather than risk it being deep-hooked. His friend, Paulos, said he felt guilty – but do we believe him?

Pike Angler

andy webster

Image source: pikeangler.co.uk
Andy Webster and a sunny 16lb 4 pike

Piker, Andy Webster has firmly established himself as a pike authority. Not content with having a wealth of articles in his ‘Ask Pike Angler‘ section, where he offers advice to those who write in, he’s also compiled a huge ‘getting started’ archive for newcomers to the sport.

Not sure which deadbait to use? Andy’s got you covered, with clear descriptions of a range of sea and coarse deadbaits. Whether you want to experiment with whole baits or just sections of fish, you’ll find all the info you need here.

There’s more than just advice in this comprehensive blog. Andy also keeps you up to date with Pike Angling Club meetings around the country with his events page. If you’re not up for the travel though, his Pike Forum has over a thousand members for you to get to know and chat about piking with!

Sam Edmonds Fishing Blog

sam edmonds

Image source: samedmondsfishing.blogspot.co.uk
Sam with his PB 30lb 2 pike

20-year-old Sam Edmonds has been fishing almost since birth. He’s got a fishing crazy dad, and they spend a lot of time out on the water together. An all-rounder, Sam’s also the 2010 Youth National Flyfishing Champion, and won Gold in the Youth International in 2012.

Youth is no problem for Sam. He’s a consultant for Pure Fishing’s lure brands, and he’s now competing as an adult as part of the Team England Lure Squad.

Set to become one of the UKs fishing celebrities, Sam’s been featured in Sky Sport’s Tightlines podcast more than once. In the meantime, there are still plenty of fish to catch. Sam and the team didn’t do too brilliantly in the Lure Fishing World Championships this year, but undaunted, he’s back out on the Thames hunting more pike!

The Pike Pool

pete foster and pike

Image source: thepikepool.blogspot.co.uk
Pike Pool’s Pete Foster, proud with his catch

Written and compiled by members of the popular pikers’ forum, The Pikers Pit, the Pike Pool has a wealth of piking stories. Read about the tenacious John Currie’s early adventures of urban fishing as a child, before settling in Norfolk and becoming involved in piking and water conservation there.

On the other side of the country, Fish Management student, James Sarkar pikes the Severn for the fit, lean fish there. He’s even out in the freezing cold, but it seems it’s all worth it – he took his first twenty in the snow!

More recently, Jason Skilton netted a Chew Valley record pike at 44lb 6! Few anglers get to see such a magnificent beast even once in their lives, let alone twice. So, imagine his astonishment when, during a trip to Heron’s Green Bay with a friend, Kristian a few months later, Kristian managed a 40+! You can’t get much better than that!

McFluffchucker

mcfluffchucker flies

Image source: McFluffchucker
Fly tying the McFluffchucker way

Dave Lindsay’s starter pike fly kit guide is about the most comprehensive you’ll find. With rods, reels and lines all covered, you’ll have no problem getting started with his recommendations.

Going deeper into the world of angling gear, Dave ties bright and beautiful pike flies, such as the flaming dizzbuster rattlehead, the ghost and the slim jim. He even makes videos of his fly tying for you to watch and learn from.

Not all of his time is spent tying at the vice, though. Dave also writes about his times fishing the lochs of Scotland, and his passion for fish welfare is second to none. Handling your catch in the right way is important, but preparing your fly rig correctly is also vital.

Fishtec’s Top 10 Predator Facebook Pages.

Lets face it, time is a precious commodity, and while there is often plenty of it whilst you sit there blanking whilst waiting for that elusive run, there’s seemingly none when you get home to the family.

As such many anglers are now turning to the pure ease of Facebook for sharing their catches and experiences. Facebook gives anglers the freedom to express their fishing lives as and when they like at the simple touch of a screen, right there on the bank, with no need to log on to a desktop PC or edit a blog or webpage back home. Judging by the number of new facebook pages springing up all the time It looks to us like convenience really is winning the day on the digital scene.

There is little doubt that predator fishing, both with lures and bait, is a hugely popular and fast growing area of the sport. This time of year see’s predator fishing activity increase drastically when other disciplines are winding down for the winter. One of the best ways to keep in touch with this growing angling discipline is to give these awesome Facebook pages a like!

In no particular order here are our top 10 predator Facebook pages:

1. Savage Gear.

Simply the number one Facebook page to see dribble-inducing pictures of massive pike, zander, perch and about anything else that will take a lure! Mads Grossel and the Savage gear team have come up with the most innovative and effective predator fishing lures you have ever seen. This page is THE place to keep up with new product developments, tackle and techniques.

2. Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain.

Britain’s largest single species predator group, the PAC works for the future of pike and pike fishing. The PAC is a fantastic organisation to be a part of, where anglers from all over Britain unite to protect the welfare of the pike. If you’re a beginner to pike fishing, or need some guidance on the coarse fishing tackle you need, and how to catch and care for your quarry then these guys are well worth a like.

3. The Pikester.

Jon Shoreman is a technologically minded pike hunter who loves sharing his catches and wisdom on his interesting facebook page. Jon is a common sight on famous pike waters such as Chew, Llandegfedd and the Scottish lochs. With his trademark hat and GoPro at the ready, you really cant miss him! Outstanding images, action video footage and some interesting photoshop work make this a very cool page to visit.

4. Adventures of a river Piker.

Nathan Edgell’s love for river piking genuinely comes through on this page. He posts gorgeous images that really capture the magic of being on the river at the crack of dawn on a cold frosty winter morning, or at sundown, float-watching in the mist waiting for that one special run. Oh, and he also regularly catches plenty of huge pike, with several 30lb plus river leviathans to his name!

5. Mick Brown fishing – Every picture tells a story.

You already be familiar with Mick Brown. A predator angler based in the midlands, Mick has written many excellent books on pike and has appeared in numerous TV series. Known as one of the nicest guys in fishing, Mick has accumulated countless thousands of photographs over his angling career and this page has been set up to share those images. Mick regularly posts his historic catches and explains the unique and quirky story behind each one. This page is a highly entertaining retro fish catching experience and is well worth a like in our opinion.

6. The Only Way is Esox.

A wonderful accumulation of striking and unusual pike pictures from around the world. Killer fishing lures, pike related humour and witty memes can all be found on this awesome page. If you are an completely obsessed esox hunter, then this is definitely the page for you!

7. Pike-in-lens.

The concept of Pike-In-Lens is ULTRA cool pike fishing shots. On this community page, you will find numerous jaw dropping images of pike in all of their savage glory from across the UK, Europe and beyond. If you like pure ‘fish porn’ then you’ve just found your nirvana.

8. Water Wolf.

If you are a mad keen predator angler then you must have heard of Water Wolf. These cameras are much loved by lure fishermen for their ability to capture pike strikes and unseen follows to your lures. There really is a whole new world down there, and this page gathers up the very best exciting predator footage for you to marvel over.

9. Irish Pike Fishing.

Pike is a long-persecuted and maligned species in Ireland. But the tables are now turning with the rise in popularity of predator fishing. Esox enthusiast Philip Cairnduff set this page up for people who love fishing in Ireland mostly for pike, but also other Irish species. Not only will you find brilliant fishing, but also some breathtaking scenery captured on camera during Irish fishing pike adventures. This page will give you the motivation to get up and dust off them rods and get onto the bank in search of mean green fighting machines.

10. River Piker – A lure anglers Diary.

Paul Bosworth’s excellent pike page is dedicated to flinging lures into UK rivers in search of esox of any size. As well as inspiring images of lure-caught pike from all over the country, you will also find some stylish videos. Lets face it, a Prodigy track and mean looking pike = pure awesomeness in our book!

Llandegfedd Pike Fishing Trials 2015

The days are getting shorter and the nights getting longer. With cold crisp mornings, dew on the grass and mist in the air, the signs are that autumn has well and truly started. This can only mean one thing for the coarse angler – the predator fishing season is not far away!

There are several magical venues which Pike fishermen consider the holy grail in the UK – Loch Lomond comes to mind, The Thurne system, Chew valley lake of course, and the mighty river Wye; but none more so than Llandegfedd reservoir in Wales.

Llandegfedd is the lake where the UK record Pike was captured, at a monstrous 46lb 13oz by Roy Lewis back in October 1992. Amazingly the record still stands at this Welsh fishery, despite it coming down to within a few ounces from English fish caught in recent times, such as the Wykeham lakes beast which peaked at 46lb 11oz.

Roy Lewis record pike from 1992.

Roy Lewis record pike from 1992.

Llandgefedd reservoir held Pike ‘trials’ almost every autumn since the early 1990’s. Coarse anglers were allowed access to this premier trout fishery for just a few brief weeks  to get a chance at landing an enormous esox. On ‘Deggy’ as the venue is affectionately known by pikers, the fishing was never easy, and many hardy souls spent countless fruitless hours afloat chasing the dream. For the lucky and committed few Llandegfedd coughed up multiple 40lb plus fish, which to this day is almost unrivaled, with only Chew valley lake just across the Bristol channel coming close.

Sadly over the years from the glory day’s in the 90’s the pike fishing went down hill. Size and numbers gradually declined in the lake, and in 2010 after an experimental February trail period that produced little or no catches, it was decided to stop all predator fishing to give the pike a well earned rest and a chance to recover their numbers.

In 2015 the angling press announced that Llandegfedd was to re-open it’s doors for pike anglers after a 5 year hiatus, for Mondays and Tuesdays only throughout September and October. Names were taken and a draw was to be made late August.

I put my name down, but to my disappointment my number never came up against the hundreds of applicants who submitted their details. Then, just a few weeks ago my phone rang.  It was an old pal of mine, Welsh S4C TV presenter and chef Anthony ‘Ants’ Evans ”Sut mae boy, how do you fancy a day on Llandeg, September the 8th?”.  Well the answer was obvious and immediate – yes!

Naturally I jumped at the chance to fish such a hallowed pike water, which for me was just a 20 minute journey down the M4. The date was for the second day of the pike trials, so expectations were high on what we might find lurking in the depths.

My last visit  pike fishing trip to the fishery had been in 2006, where in two hard days myself, and Fishtec team members Tim Hughes and Allan Crawford-Plane manged a decent enough return with a couple of pike each, with my first ever ‘big’ pike of 19lb 12oz being taken on a lure.

Fishtec team photo - Llandegfedd 2006

Fishtec team photo – Llandegfedd circa 2006.

The day finally came and we arrived at the fishery at about 8.00am. Conditions looked absolutely perfect for pike fishing; it was overcast with a moderate breeze – just right!

Early morning on the boat jetty at Llandegfedd.

Early morning on the boat jetty.

We had a bit of time to kill until the 9am start, so we popped into the all-new visitor center, which had been built from scratch for 2.5 million the previous year. The sparkling new and well thought out facility was a vast improvement over the old portacabins, and inline with many other top UK trout fisheries there were now spotless toilet facilities and a purpose built cafe for anglers situated in the upper story. There are also plans to integrate a fishing tackle shop into the visitor center, catering for both fly and coarse fishermen.

The new Welsh Water lodge facility at Llandegfedd reservoir.

The new Welsh Water lodge facility at Llandegfedd reservoir.

As any angler knows the secret to a successful days fishing is a hearty breakfast to keep you going all day; and believe me as a connoisseur of a fishery fry up all over the country they know how to make a good one at Llandgefedd. We ate an awesome breakfast whilst looking out over the lake,  It was well worth turning up for!

A hearty Llandegfedd breakfast - Dai iawn as we say in Wales! (very good!)

A hearty Llandegfedd breakfast – Dai iawn as we say in Wales! (very good!)

After eating our fill and enjoying a great cup of coffee we headed downstairs and collected our ticket and life preserver from the rack outside the lodge. Boats were packed, rods rigged and engines fired into life- the atmosphere was electric and everyone was itching to head out into the lake.  At 9.00am everyone cut loose, and in traditional pike trial style it was a mad scramble to get to the ‘hot spot’ which had produced 7 x 20lb plus pike to 26lb the day before.

We were a bit slow on the uptake getting off the jetty, and never being one to follow the herd I decided we should find our own fish. My thoughts on tackling the fishery were to cover water and try lures – these fish had not seen a sea deadbait for 5 years, so in my opinion lures would be the best strategy, and if nothing takes you can often provoke a follow so you know fish are in the vicinity.

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Some of my favouirite lures for pike are soft plastic rubber lures – there are some great ones out there such as the Fox replicants, Storm wildeye shads and more recently the outstanding Savage Gear 3D trout range;  with their life-like detailing, pliable soft rubber compound for extra movement, and a built in tail rattle these great lures are often my ‘go to’ pattern in the box. I picked out the golden albino colour to start, which has brought me excellent results on other trout water pike trips.

A selection of Pike fishing lures.

A selection of Pike fishing lures.

A Savage Gear 3D trout lure in albino.

A Savage Gear 80 gram 3D trout lure in albino.

Our first stop was a large bay on the right hand side of the reservoir. Nobody else had ventured into this area, in fact the vast  majority of the other boats had clustered into a small area at the top end of the reservoir, as had bank anglers.

The wind was just perfect for a gentle drift without a drogue, and after and hour or so nothing had happened in fairly deep water, so we took a drift tighter into shore. Just as we drifted to within yards of the bank, I turned the engine to motor off and spotted out of the corner of my eye a pike lying about a yard off the bank. Another drift through followed, but this time dropping the lures extremely close in. Ants was the first to catch a fish, a spirited jack on a firetiger fox replicant. We had several more jacks and attacks to the lures for the next hour along the short area of bank – including a couple of following fish that looked into the mid -teens.

Ants Evans with a deggy jack pike.

Ants Evans with a deggy jack pike.

A jack pike taken just yards out.

A jack pike taken just yards out.

We gave the area a rest after catching a few fish, and covered many other potential fish holding areas all around the lake, in both shallow and deep water with nothing but a couple of sharp pulls and follows from overly curious trout for our efforts. As the day went on we did see a decent fish landed on a boat which had anchored up all day, right in the center of the ‘hotspot’ but otherwise all seemed quiet.

A return to the bay brought us another couple of jacks, and more follows, but this eventually dried up as the sun finally broke out at the end of the day.  At the end of the day we had a quick catch up with other anglers and some biggies had been landed, including 4 x 20’s to 27lb 7oz and of course we heard the usual stories of the monster that got away!

End of a day's pike angling on Llandegfedd.

End of a day’s pike angling on Llandegfedd.

We had a truly enjoyable day on the water and hope to return later in the season, when the water temperatures will have dropped further and brought the big girls (which I’m sure are still in there!) onto the feed proper.

The predator fishing on Llandegfedd can only get better, and with a good spread of sizes and age classes clearly present there is great optimism for the future pike sport on the venue. Who knows? Maybe another British record is still down there lurking in the depths!

For more information on fishing Llandegfedd reservoir visit www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd or call 01633 373 401

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Tips for successful river Pike Fishing

River caught Pike

25lb plus wild river pike – Captor: Leighton Ryan

Catching a prime specimen Pike from a river can look like a daunting prospect at first glance…  However they are a relatively easy fish to catch, once you know how! Read on for my top 10 tips on how to land yourself one of these magnificent wild predators before the coarse fishing river season ends in the next few weeks.

1. Travel light and keep your fishing tackle to a minimum. Be prepared to walk long distances – the biggest specimens won’t be in the car park swim! Waterproof breathable fishing clothing and waders are essential, and also a quiver system or fishing rucksack to carry your fishing gear effectively. Don’t bother taking a chair or a day shelter,  just use the bank to sit on.

2. Move swims every 20 minutes – if you don’t have a run within that time then there are either no fish there, or if they are they are simply not feeding in that area. The more water you can cover the greater your chances will be.

3. Tread carefully and quietly when approaching a swim – the pike are very often under your feet in the margins, and can spook easily. Many large pike have been caught just an arms length out from the bank.

4. Use fresh bait from the fishmonger’s counter – e.g herring, sprats or sardines. They smell much better and emit more oil.  Another benefit is the low cost. They are soft for casting purposes, but you won’t be casting them out far – Use sea fishing bait elastic to keep your deadbait on the hooks.

5. When roving there is a lot of physical activity, so breathable waders are a real benefit.  They stop moisture build up which in turn keeps you warm and dry. Breathable chest waders also help if you need to scramble down into the water to net a fish or retrieve your rig from that inevitable snag up !

6. Experiment with added oils and attractants – one of my favourite ploys is to add a cod liver-oil pill (the clear jelly-type ones sold by health food shops) on to the bend of one of the trebles. It leaves a tasty little slick for the pike to home in on.

7. Don’t be put off by colour in the water, or if the river is in partial flood. These conditions often push fish into slack marginal areas and actually make them easier to find.
A full bank bursting spate with trees drifting past on the other hand is a no go!

8. Set your float over depth by about a foot, and use a very long bank stick to keep your mainline up off the surface. This helps reduce drag from the current, and stops debris from building up on your line and giving false bites.

9. Once your float starts to bob under, or  starts moving steadily across the surface set the hooks! Only little jacks tend to fall off from striking too soon…. Big pike are pretty wised up and often drop the bait when they feel resistance. It also makes unhooking a much easier task.

10. Keep your best spots secret! Pike are vulnerable to heavy fishing pressure, so once you land your dream pike and get a picture keep the exact location to yourself and close fishing buddies only, or you might find your future sport declines.

River pike float fishing

Waiting for the float to disappear