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.

Kindle

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