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

Early Pike

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.

Tony Miles Pike

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.

Chew Valley Pike Trials

I bet you have your special little place where you like to sneak off too now and again, just to regain some confidence in your angling ability? Chew Valley is the place to go where fishing tackle is indeed tested and more than often dreams become reality.

Chew valley lake is a special place, both for trout anglers and now for the pike chasers alike. A combination of factors has led to Chew becoming the best Pike fishery in the UK with numerous 30 pound plus fish being caught.

The fishing is allocated by a limited numbers draw system which could see you rubbing shoulders with some piking legends such as Neville Fickling, Dave Kelbrick, Martin Bowler and the like. With 50 anglers fishing it every day of the trials it can be a bit of a lottery and getting on the earlier days of the week also helps. I was lucky enough to have a cancellation day for middle of the first week , but this only produced a double and some jack pike whilst that very same day two 40’s and 7 30’s came out! I think this was down to us moving spots too many times; the big ones were coming out purely to static dead baits left to soak for a good few hours.

My fellow Fishtec  staff member Garrett had put his name down for the draw and had been lucky enough to get a boat for Sunday, the last day of the first week. As a total pike virgin he needed an experienced guide and of course I leapt at the chance to have another crack at the chew pike. We set off at 6.30 am to get to the lodge for 8.00am, the idea being to wolf down a full English which is all part of the chew tradition. Garrett truly obliged and was the first to clear his plate, in fact it was picked clean of every scrap in a short space of time much to the amazement and amusement of our fellow diners.

 The essential start to the day

We soon had our boat number and we headed out into a calm still and cold lake, which made a pleasant change from the recent wet and windy weather. I took us to a spot in open water on a drop off which had produced some great catches for me in pervious trials; it was here we sat it out for a good couple of hours and after fine tuning our position one of my floats finally bobbed under. I explained to Garrett the need to take in the slack line and then set the hooks with a firm sweep of the rod, but upon demonstrating this technique my trusted Greys prodigy boat rod fractured into four pieces with a loud bang! It was a bit of a hair raising fight bringing the fish to the side of the net on just a butt section with the danger of the jagged carbon cutting through my line at any moment, and to top it off I could see just one hook point of the two treble hook in the scissors of the pike. Thankfully my TF Gear redmist line took the strain Garrett was a dab hand with the net and we got the fish in the boat. She was as fat as a hog and turned the scales at 22lb 4 oz.

Check the broken rod

22lb 4oz Ceri Pike

We sat it out for another few hours, with nothing but news of my pal Leighton Ryan and his boat partner landing a 25 and a 30!

TFG fan Leighton with his 25 pound lump

As it was getting on in the day I decided to take us to a shallow bay where Garrett would have a almost guaranteed catch of a jack to avoid the dreaded blank. Sure enough he soon got a run and landed his first ever pike.

Garrett’s First Jack

Not long after he had a dropped run and then connected with a confident pick up which bent the rod double, sadly it was not to be and the hooks pulled after a short fight. I had the feeling it was a real zoo animal maybe one of the 30’s! It was a hard call to make whether to stick it out in the same area, but I chanced It and took us back to our earlier spot for the last hour which is often the best time for a big one. Sure enough as the temperature and light fell Garretts float went under, and this time he stuck well and kept the pressure on. The fish wallowed on the top and was revealed as a decent fish, after a short tussle I did the honours with net and we weighed her in at 21lb 8 oz. Our time was up but I was well made up with a 20 each and helping Garrett capture a specimen pike of a size that has taken many experienced pikers years to achieve.

Garretts 20 pounder

Luring a Pike..

I’ve been fishing now for longer than I can remember and still get excited when fishing on new waters.. The water im fishing this weekend is the Mid Kent Fisheries Lake the Conningbrook, noted mainly for its rock hard Carp fishing. Anglers who have wet a line there believe the late holds the British record carp, Two Tone. As well as some superb carp there are also some impressive pike in there too, that’s what’s on my agenda.

The weather that day was a cool 6 degrees c with a westerly wind and a pressure of 1004 mb so I decided to fish with the wind on my back. I set up my 3Ib Tc Delta XS rod (which by the way is great for general pike fishing) and coupled it with my V8 reels with 15Ib main line.

The rigs I kept fairly simple, a running ledger with a 2oz lead on one rod and a standard float setup on the other both with 7 Strand Drennan size 6 snap tackle. For bait I decided to give them two options, either a mackerel tale on the ledger or a small roach on the float which I think is a good starting point if you’re on a new lake. Fishing tackle set up and ready to go I cast my rigs out around 60yrds and waited, and waited, before I knew it 2 hours had already gone so I decided a move was needed and settled on a swim on the opposite side of the lake. With the baits in I again waited and thought to myself, this isn’t any good and thought about my options.

What interests me is how the fry try to leap free of the water – as I looked up a spray of fry hit the surface about 30yrds in front of me. I took off the lead and fished the sink and draw method with the roach. Three casts later and nothing and to be honest  I was getting pretty tired but on the fourth cast just as the bait was nearing the bank I felt a slight pull on the line and without hesitation I struck. CRASH out jumps this scatty little pike and tears away thinking he was bigger than he was and soon gave up and was in the net. At 5Ib 7oz it’s not the biggest pike I’ve had but boy was it welcome all the same and with only minutes to spare.

So looking back on the day I’ve concluded on three matters

1 – No matter how bad it looks keep trying and keep changing, it can and will pay off in the end

2 – With the bite mark on the fish it would appear there are bigger fish in the lake

3 – I’ll try popped up bait next time as the weed can be a real problem

I’ll keep going for that bigger one throughout winter!

Till the next time tight lines and best fishes

Scott Cordingley

Pike Fishing at Esox Lodge

The area around Esox Lodge is a complex of rivers, reedy bays and hidden lakes. They all contain Bream, Roach, Rudd, Perch & Pike. Dead baits, trolling, spinning and fly fishing for pike are methods used to catch these trophy fish. The 365 lakes in Cavan contain Pike, Trout and a selection of coarse fish all within easy reach of Esox lodge.

Pike at the moment are stacked up in the small bays off the main river flow. This is due to the high level of the river and the volume of water passing through. This gives the angler a great opportunity to have fun on light fishing tackle. Jerk baiting and fly-fishing is bringing good sport contacting with smaller pike , up to 2.5kg, with the chance of a double figure also with every cast. Currently micro chompers and buster jerk baits are working best, the brighter ones seem to attract more fish as the water is coloured. There are still pike in the shallows when the temp rises during the day but most fish are lying in deeper water 9-12 feet ambushing lures from the weed. Averaging 6-10 fish per session per day. The larger pike are taken on dead baits at this time of the year. The Esox Lodge record of 34lb 4oz was taken 1st week in December 3 years ago from a spot not too far from Esox Lodge.


Any further details contact 353878122666 or or find us on Facebook


Esox Lodge

The area around Esox Lodge is a complex of rivers, reedy bays and hidden lakes. They all contain Bream, Roach, Rudd, Perch & Pike. Dead-baits, trolling, spinning and flyfishing for pike are methods used to catch these trophy fish. At Esox Lodge you can rent a boat and moor it at the end of the garden for quick access to the vast Erne waterway. The 365 lakes in Cavan contain Pike, Trout and a selection of coarse fish all within easy reach of Esox lodge.


Luxurious self catering 3 bedroom holiday home accommodation lodge located on the Shannon Erne Waterway in the heart of Co Cavan’s Lake District, Ireland.


Call 00353878122666



Recommended pike fishing tackle.

Fly Rod – Bluetooth Nantec fly rod –  Fly Line – Airflo 40+ Fly Lines

The Final Three Months

It’s fair to say that my winter fishing never really had chance to kick off until after Christmas, following a series of domestic disasters that stopped me getting out. Finally, in late December, with the new van fitted out, the garage roof repair organised, and my daughter’s back operation behind us, I was able to go fishing with a clear head. With only a few weeks left to fish, my original winter plans were shelved in favour of pursuing just two targets, a chub to beat my current best of 7lb 5ozs and my best pike for twenty years, which would require a fish of 25lbs plus.

My very first day of winter chubbing was destined to provide me with the first target. There is one stretch I fish which is a blank waiting to happen, by which I mean that bites are always very scarce. The plus, though, is that the fish when they come along are usually exceptional. The conditions when I arrived were far from ideal, with the water as low and clear as in summer. Because of that, I chose the deepest swim on the fishery, where a midriver right hand bend forms a classic crease. I’ve had good fish from there in floods but never fished it under such low winter conditions. I made my first cast at around midday, and was still biteless as the light started to fade. Then, out of the blue, the tip of my fishing rod shot round and I found myself in contact with a strong fish which I first thought must be a barbel. I soon realised, however, that the culprit was an extra big chub, but I hadn’t realised just how big until I saw it slide over the rim of my TFG landing net. Here was one truly massive chub; I had a possible 8lb in mind. I wasn’t too far out. After carefully twice zeroing the scales, I confirmed a new best of 7lb 13ozs; what a fantastic fish.

After that leviathan on my first serious chubbing trip of the winter, I made another three two-day trips to the stretch, fishing past midnight on each day, but that seven pounder remained the only bite I had. That was to change on the last day of the river season, when I fished from midday until the official season close at midnight. I managed two solid bites in the evening, landing good fish of 5lb 14ozs and 6lb 9ozs. So, I’d landed just three chub from the stretch since December, but what a great average size.

In between the slow chubbing sessions, I enjoyed some much more active deadbaiting at local waters in the search for that elusive 25lb plus pike. In total contrast to the river experiences, I never had a single blank. In all, I landed 16 pike under 10lbs, plus another 18 fish in double figures. Seven of those fish were over 17lbs, the exact weights being 17lb 10ozs (2), 17lb 12ozs, 18lb 6ozs, 19lb 4ozs, 19lb 6ozs and 19lb 8ozs. You can see from those statistics that not only did I fail to get anywhere near 25lb but I didn’t even beat 20lbs. On my very last piking trip I thought I’d done it at last when I had a fantastic scrap after hooking something heavy on a whole mackerel. Bizarrely, it turned out to be a mid double mirror carp fairly hooked on the bottom treble. The fishing was tremendous nevertheless and I felt in with a real chance of an exceptional fish at all times; one of the waters had produced a 33lb fish.

At the time of writing, I’m just off for a week’s holiday with the wife and then I’m beginning a spring tench campaign. I’ll let you know how it goes.