Categories
Bob Dellar

The Call Of The Pike Part 1


Jig fisher virgin.

And so the colder months are upon us and I’m keen to get amongst the spikes, teeth, stripes and manly jaw-lines of our native piscine predators.

Although I’ve had the odd dabble already, if the truth be known. And I’ve discovered a new way of catching them, well new to me anyway. Jig fishing. 

My very first outing was an opportunistic one, when I sneaked the jig rod in amongst the chainsaws and climbing ropes before I left home in the hope of nicking a quick session on a lovely stretch of the Upper Stour near Liston, Sudbury after a morning’s work. The weather was red hot, bright and sunny with a brisk wind so not that perfect! Nonetheless I was keen to take my new six foot rod out for its maiden voyage and to pop my jig fishing cherry at the same time! I’ve fished with spinners and plugs on and off for years but the jelly-like jig lures with all their assorted names, colours and strangeness are new to me. When I arrived the river was crystal clear and what was really pleasing to see was the sheer number of fish from fry to the more mature flitting around in the shallows. And where there’s prey there’s predators, so the sight of all those silvers boosted my confidence. Features abound in the Stour at Liston with lilies, cabbages, reed beds and overhanging as well as submerged branches. All great to cover the backs of a spiky-toothed pike or a bristling perch but a bit of a snag-magnet for a cack-handed jig-fisher virgin.

Incredibly, my first cast with a perch fry micro-lure had a follow from a little jack which might well have had a pop had I not panicked and plucked the lure from right under its nose sending it skywards into a hawthorn. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the pike. It hung in the water stock still for a second or two and if it had blinked and shaken its head in disbelief I wouldn’t have been surprised.

After disentangling my lure and trace from a particularly vicious hawthorn branch I continued my trek down the bank on the hunt for more predator holding hotspots. The wind had whipped up sending tiny manes of white water across the river’s surface obscuring potential snags and hazards, so every cast became a lost-tackle lottery. At one point, the eddying wind and water subsided briefly offering a brief glimpse into the depths like a porthole on the Nautilus. It was then that my spiky little lure came into view no than than four metres from the near bank. Just as my wrist tensed on the rod handle to induce a last enticing flick, a jack pike shot out from his liquid lair with astonishing speed and grabbed it. I still am astounded, when I think back, at the sheer pace and savagery of that lunge. What ensued was a brief but powerful tussle with a summer pike of no more than two pounds. He gave it his all that little pike and I’ve had less enjoyable tussles with Esox many times his size who have thrown in the towel early and limped to the net like a hooked bin-bag. A second, slightly bigger fish of about three pounds followed from a swim overhung by one of the oldest and gnarliest white willows I’ve ever seen, it’s squat, fissured trunk rubbed smooth and shiny in places where generations of cattle have scratched an itch or sheltered from sun or rain. It must have been pollarded countless times over the years as well as thrashed and decollated by countless storms but as is the way with willows, new growth soon emerges to replace the lost and damaged. There must have been an absolute maze of fibrous red-tinged roots wafting in the flow where the tree’s huge buttresses enter the water, a perfect ambush point for that hungry little pike.

Little pike from below the willow


Next swim was a tight one and I had to kneel to cast. The jig was snapped up as soon as it hit the water and I fell back in surprise and flailed about in the nettles before I regained my composure. I was attached to a lively perch of about half a pound which, as it thrashed about in the margins, was escorted sympathetically by three or four of its shoal mates to the waiting net. Anthropomorphism is a dubious trait I know but as I released him back into the flow I like to think that his mates took him to one side, checked he was ok, and gently rebuked him for being so impulsive. 

So, for a first session on the jig as it were, things went quite well and overall was an enjoyable experience. Remarkably, I didn’t leave any lures, lost and forlorn, snagged up in the underwater jungle, but I did crush my fibre glass landing net pole when the perch pounced and I fell back on my arse.

First perch on a jig rig


Jungle jigging

I’d recently joined Sudbury and Long Melford Angling Club, impressed by the range of river fishing they offered, mainly on the Suffolk Stour. But amongst the river delights were an intriguing trio of well established gravel pits: Glemsford 1, 2 and 3. The pits are collectively a nature reserve and an SSSI, primarily down to its outstanding population of dragonflies.  I love dragonflies. If I spot one I’ll stand and watch, because every time they enthral. Absolute masters of the air, and aerial predators par excellence they can turn on a sixpence to grab an unsuspecting fly, midge or mosquito mid-flight. Without them they’d be a lot more mossie bites to scratch, a lot more hydrocortisone anointing. And their names are perfect aptronyms: darters, hawkers, chasers. On the Norfolk Broads, I once witnessed a southern hawker doing battle with an angry hornet, a bout that the hawker lost but the ensuing dog-fight was a spectacle as both insects wrestled mid-air, end over end, free falling then ascending, a contortion of brightly coloured abdomens goring at each other until the hawker was thrust away defeated, its perfect wings trashed and crumpled as it ditched in the river Ant and gently floated away, a fitting Viking burial, back to the water from whence it came.

And so for my first trip to Glemsford I opted to fish No 3, a fantastic, prehistoric looking water, wild and swamp-like, a Louisiana bayou without the heat and alligators . A maze of spits, islands and craggy-old willows with dislocated, fractured limbs hanging precariously in the trees or strewn around, as if an angry giant has crashed through. 

The weather was mild and overcast, absolutely ideal so out came the jig rod again for a couple of hours of jungle fishing. This is about as near to wild angling as it gets round these parts. Every swim I cast into screamed fish, such was the abundance of predatory lairs and ambush points. And such was the case as I netted three perfect little Jack pike and a couple of bristling perch up to half a pound within the first hour. I’ve been told that the pike are restricted to youngsters at the moment as a couple of unfortunate summer oxygen starvation events put paid to the older fish. But the perch are an unknown entity. There could be some big girls down there, hopefully I’ll find out.

Conversely, next door is a commercial fishery that’s the polar opposite of Pit 3. Comprising of a ‘traditional pond’, a ‘pleasure/match’ pond and a larger, ‘specimen’ lake, the two ponds are barren puddles with the odd drift of sick looking lilies, no bankside vegetation, very few features and certainly no fishing appeal. A rusting JCB that may well have dug them out skulks nearby, giving off an air of after-thought and that’ll do to the fishery as a whole. The specimen lake is behind a gated fence so is difficult to see. It does look slightly more appealing with some reed beds and a couple of islands, but comparing this fishery to Pit 3 would be like comparing Stephen Fry to Joey Essex.
But I suppose it’s a case of horses for courses. No doubt these ponds are packed full of fish and would provide a a welcome bend in the rod if you’d suffered a few blanks elsewhere. And these fisheries are often fantastic confidence boosters and training grounds for new fisherman. But I’d prefer a wild-water, any day of the week.

The bayou that is Glemsford Pit 3


Apologies to the pike. Winter, 1977 (or thereabouts.)

As a schoolboy of twelve or thirteen, I fished fairly often with Steve, my brother in law. I remember fishing a stretch of what was probably the river Roding in Essex; a small, narrow stretch festooned with vegetation and overhanging willows, a chub fishers paradise. 

One Sunday afternoon during the winter, while Steve and I immersed ourselves in this chubby heaven, probing the depths with ledgered luncheon meat, I got bored with the lack of action and slapped on a rusty old Mepps spinner that had been knocking around in my tackle bag for ages, regularly puncturing my fingers if I delved too deep. I just tied it straight to the nylon mainline, no trace, and no thought to the consequences.

I think I had perch in mind as Steve had said that fishing near features like bridges and weirs, especially during the winter, was a useful tactic for big stripeys, so I blame him entirely for the years of guilt and trauma I suffered as a result of my foolhardiness! Just upstream from our swim was a small weir coupled with a small footbridge; perfect perch territory according to angling oracle Steve, so off I trotted in the naive hope of snaring a giant stripey . I’m not sure if it was first cast or not but everything seemed to happen very quickly. As I reeled the spinner back towards the bank I had a great, lunging take that very nearly ripped the rod from my hand and sent a great shudder of shock and fear right through me. This was no perch, for if it were it would have shattered the British record, and I would have been a famous schoolboy fisherman. What had grabbed my rusty old Mepps was an enormous pike. I’d been a fisherman for about three years up to that point and my biggest fish to date had been a five pound common carp. Now I thought that fish put up a fair old fight but it was truly nothing compared to the pike. I had little concept of playing a fish of any size, and the clutch on my Intrepid ‘Boyo’ reel was cranked up far too tight, so that poor old fish jagged, tugged and tail-walked right under my rod tip. I held on for dear life; from a distance I probably looked like a manic conductor suffering a fit during the final movement. But as soon as it started it stopped. I have a searing image, still vivid to this day, of that great pike’s head disappearing below the foam it had whipped up, my rusty old Mepps spinner, with its flash of red-wool, dangling from its face like some cheap, back-street piercing. I’ve caught pike to 25lb since then, so I have some idea of pike proportions. I’m guessing that pike could have easily been a mid-double and I hope it shed that spinner very quickly and lived a long and happy life, or maybe grew to love its facial adornment and wore it as a token of its prowess in battle. Puerile musings aside, I still feel guilty about that pike. And now, as a convert to the art of jig fishing, drop-shotting, ned-slinging, creature chucking and so forth, I always use a trace, despite the general consensus amongst the lure-fisher fraternity that it’s ok to use fluorocarbon hook lengths, because if you do hook a pike and it bites you off it’ll soon shed the hooks. I think to a great extent this is wishful thinking, so I’m a trace man, in memory of the Mepps spinner pike.

My Mepps was rustier than this
Categories
Andrew Pilgrim

Licenced to Kill?

Predator anglers, do you kill the fish you catch?……. Are you sure? Lets have a chat about fish handling.

Undoubtedly the way we anglers care for our catch has improved tremendously in the last couple of decades. In the last few years the Carp boys have been leading the way with their supersized, fish friendly landing nets, unhooking mats and cradles and the Carp care kits to apply any first aid as required so a big kudos to them. Although the way they pose for photos does make me smile at times.“Why?”….. Well it’s all that ‘arms out hide your fingers and gaze in awe and teary eyed wonderment at your elbows’ stuff trying to make the fish appear larger than it actually is. If you want a picture of a bigger fish go catch a bigger fish! And don’t get me started on the up to the waist in the water with the your trophy fish held aloft, just ridiculous if you ask me. But I digress somewhat, lets get back to Predator fishing. Like most branches of our sport fish handling has improved greatly. When I was a lad the rule of thumb was when you had a Pike take was to wait ages to ensure the fish was ‘Well hooked’ by reciting the lords prayer or the national anthem before striking. This indeed did ensure that the Pike was indeed well hooked, but often right down in its guts. Thankfully this has been replaced with an almost immediate strike which is much more acceptable. The barbaric Gaff has been confined to history and the Pike Gag likewise. Unhooking mats are almost the norm and we are starting to see that treble hooks are being replaced by single hooks. “So all is good then?”…. not quite. We are back to holding the fish for pictures as this aspect of how we treat our catch needs addressing.

Let’s start with Perch.

I like many remember catching these wonderful little fish in abundance, indeed they were the staple fish for kids like me back in the 60s/70s while fishing at the end of our short rods, while our parents targeted the Roach and Bream way, way out in the pond, far beyond our limited casting range. Back then a 4oz fish was a ‘big un’ and anything larger was a fish of dreams. However these days things are somewhat different. The number of ‘big’ Perch being caught recently is truly astounding. with a 1lb fish being unremarkable and a 2lb specimen being just fairly good. Unfortunately an unpleasant trend has made its way across the Atlantic and it’s driving me nuts! Yup you guessed it, THE LIP GRIP !!

In the US the majority of Bass anglers seem to be convinced that the most harmful thing you can do to a fish is hold it like we do and damage the “precious layer of protective slime” so they grip the fish by the lower lip. Now this in itself is not a problem as the jaws on the Bass are fairly robust and holding a fish in this fashion makes for easy unhooking.

Verticle Lip Grip

The problem arises when the lip grip is used in this fashion.

NO, No and thrice NO!

The full weight of the fish is now put on the lower jaw, this will potentialy strain the muscle tissue etc that operates the complex jaw mechanism and may in some instanced dislocate or break the delicate bones. This resulte in a fish that, although you return it looking fit and healthy, is unable to feed. If it fails to recover from whatever injuries you have unwittingly inflicted upon it will die. “What’s this got to do with Perch fishing?”…… Well the rise in popularity of Drop-Shotting over here has lead to some fishermen watching videos of the US bass anglers on you tube and it really has become a case of “Monkey see, Monkey do”

If you must use the “Lip Grip on Perch please suppoet the weight of its body like this.

If You Must, just don’t pull the jaw down.

Or if you want to see a master at work have a look at Ash Costa Angling on Facebook. Not only is he one of the finest Perch anglers in the country but his pictures are top class.

Ash kindly sent me this picture where you can see how the fish is held to make your hand ‘vanish’

So lets now have a look at our top predator, The Pike

I used to lip grip pike, we all did back in the day, but I can count the number of pike anglers that still ‘Lip Grip’ on the fingers on one hand…. Oh hang on!…………………….

On the whole Pike anglers are pretty good at fish handling, we have to be or things can get nasty pretty quickly. Though I do think we could be better. Firstly we have to remember that the shape of a pike, being long and thin makes then somewhat awkward to get and keep a good hold on.

If you are unsure about unhooking Pike this video explains very well the correct way to handle your fish. https://youtu.be/sS7XBbF4Cf8

However once unhooked you may wish to hold your fish up for a picture. Please be aware that although your fish may be large Pike are quite fragile and are easily damaged. The anatomy of a fish is such that their internal organs are always suported by the water. If they are held roughly the internals can be easily damaged and result in a slow lingering death for the fish despite it swimming away strongly. Tope and Shark anglers realised that once boated and held for pictures these Sharks were less likley to survive once returned so now most are never brought onboard as they are unhooked at the side of the boat. If you hold a Pike in the same way as you might hold a carp, thrusted out infront of you, the hand under the fishes belly will squash and crush the delicate internal organs of the fish.

Squashing and squeezing a fishes belly like thish should be avoided at all costs, as should folding the fish in half like this.

Pike are not designed to bend in this direction and this can’t be doing them any good whatsoever.

“So how should I hold a Pike?”…. Well there are a few ways. By using one hand to ‘Chin’ the fish and support the weight of the fish allong you other forearm, close to your body. But the key thing is keeping the head well above the body. My favorite way hold a big pike for a picture is by far this way.

If you are unsure or dont yet have the confidence to handle a really big specimen do as this young chap has done.

So there you have it, my own personal thoughts on displaying your fish for a picture.

One last thing, there are many ways to hold your fish, some better than others. But my beloved Sheena says if she ever sees anyone using this Eye Grip she will seriously give them a good ‘re-educating’, and I would advise anyone to do the same.

We hold a licence to Fish, not a License to Kill.

Categories
Tom Baird

Dead Bait and Lure set up’s

Evening all and I hope you are all well and safe. Thank god we can still fish and get out there to free our minds from the troubles we are all facing at the moment. I thought I would share my setups with you for Piking. So, come the 1st October my rods are ready, so I can fish at a moment’s notice.

Now every angler would have their favourite brands or some might use a mix of brands. Me being the way I am, I have to have the same brand for the species I’m targeting. I know it sounds nuts, but some of you will be in the same boat. I have to have matching everything lol.

So, for my Pike set ups I use Fox. I just like the styles and the way the rods handle when fishing. The rod I use is a Fox Warrior S. I find the bend and the play in the rod really suits me. My reels are Fox ESO 12000, now these are a chunky reel, but when you’re fishing for Crocs you need a good system you can rely on.

Now I need to equip my tools with Braided line, which I must have for Pike fishing. The braid lets you feel the whole take and enjoy it more. You can find all sorts of braid out there. Go into your local tackle shop and see what they recommend. You will get valuable knowledge and at the same time support your local business.

Then I look at my wire traces with triple hooks on them. Now you can make your own and there are some great videos out there, or again your local tackle shop might show you. I was lucky I had someone show me how to do this. If you are feeling lazy or just don’t have the patience, you can get them already done. So, look for dead bait Pike rig which is around 20 inches in length. The length is important because if the Pike roles then you want that extra length on there.

There are plenty of dead baits out there and each water works differently. So, speak to other anglers to see what works. Could be Markell on one water or Roach on another.

For my lure and spinning I use the Fox Warrior Rage Spinning rod and the same reel. What a lovely rod. Its light and amazing to handle. Again, braided line and a wire trace with hook clip swivel which makes changing lures and spinners quick and easy.

I find there are lots of techniques out there for bringing your lures in and making them more attractive for the fish. Watch a few videos and the go and try them out. Also, if you know someone who is skilled in lure fishing see if you can tag along. Once you catch on a lure or spinner you will fall in love with that style of fishing. Moving to different spots or trolling up and down rivers until you get that strike on that rod. Remember you are being hunted by the ultimate hunter fish.

Until next time, Tight Lines……

Categories
Tom Baird

A weekend in wellies

Hello there my fellow anglers and I hope you are all safe and well. So, this weekend saw me fishing both days. Which was amazing as I only have time for once a week usually. It started after work on Saturday I met up with fellow blogger Bailey.

Bailey wanted to have a go at lure fishing for Pike and choose me of all people to teach him the ways (poor man). We met at Heybridge and headed inland with lures in hand stopping at different points along the way. We started just past the last mooring, which was quite weedy due to strong flows and dead weed off the bottom.

We soon bumped into fellow anglers and exchanged some banter and catch reports. They seemed to be doing much better, as we had 0 catches. To top it off, fellow angler Russ caught a cracking Perch whilst chatting (well done Russ). I was like an excited little school kid, offering my net to help out.   

Well done Russ.

Once we had parted ways, we carried on trying different spots along the navigation, recognising the areas mentioned by the other group. Which was ok as Baily was getting his style of lure fishing together, which is always great to see. I was giving a few pointers every now and then, but he was doing fine. Sometimes you have got to do what you are comfortable with and what works for you.

We got to a nice section of river and Baily was doing his thing and I was a few swims down and bang, I was in to a nice little Jack. The way they take a lure still amazes me. As we landed it, the baby crock decided to do a famous death role in the net. The lure came out and tangled up in the side of the net. Which I wasn’t worried about, as I was more concerned about the Jack. Checked him over and all was good. After some photos, put the little fighter back and he swam off perfectly.

Whilst sorting out a nightmare of a double triple hook lure in my net, Bailey was in, his face was like Charlie from Willy Wonka finding the golden ticket. He played it well and we landed it very carefully, as my lure was still tangled. I was so happy that he had caught one. The pressure was off. I couldn’t blank with him again lol.

Unfortunately, that was the only fish we were catching that day. Bailey did have a few more takes which come off, but he was still a happy bunny.

On Sunday me and Harry decided to hit the River Stour again. Wellies on we headed to the mill pool, had about half an hour there and nothing. So, we decided to head on up river. Found a lovely spot and had a few casts out. We had to stop for a little while, due to a swimming group going past. Had a good chat, but obviously fishing had died off by that point. Now I could say Harry got caught in a tree, but it was me. I was trying to get to a difficult spot where I know some nice pike had been caught.

I passed Harry my rod and went to retrieve my line and lure still attached to the rod. After fighting a jungle I was finger tips away, the bank gave way and my whole welly went in. Harry had thought I had gone in. The poor boy of seven didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Once he knew I was ok, then the laughter happened. My whole right leg was drenched from groin to toes. Our fishing session was over. Back to the car we went with a squelching sound with every step. The water I emptied out of my welly was quite impressive.

Once at the car we had some cheeky custard creams and made our way home. My boots are still drying out in the garage.

Until next time fellow anglers, tight lines….

Categories
Tom Baird

The Young Angler

So, its no secret that I fish a lot with my son Harry. I enjoy every moment of it, even the arguing about where to fish and what set up we are going to use. Now Harry is only 7 years old and he runs rings around me at fishing. He has a list on his wardrobe of coarse fish that he is targeting before he’s 8 years old.

This week we had to target the Pike. After school I took him to a lovely spot on the River Stour with spinning rod in hand. We did have two rods set up for dead baiting, but some silly dad forgot the dead bait (what a numpty)

It had been raining on and off all day, but Harry was really looking forward to going after school and I was too. So, we went for it. We got to the river at 16:00 and was planning to stop at around 18:30.

We looked like two drowned rats. I have showed Harry how to use lures and spinners before and he loved it. Standing in the shallows in his wellies, jigging the line as he reeled in. I was a happy Dad.

Then the heavens opened up. What a down pour it was, the rain was running off my waterproof and down my trousers. Harry found this very amusing, as it looked like I had wet myself. After trying several lures, Harry chose a spinner, yellow and red. He loved how it moved under the water.


After around 10 minutes of casting BANG Harry was in. He played the fish so well, another happy moment. He had caught a lovely Jack.

There were several high fives and fist bump. We got the little croc onto the mat and took the hook out. Harry was perfect telling me how to handle the fish and what would happen if I got bitten.

When putting it back, Harry was instructing me which way to face the fish to get the oxygen into its gills and so it can get its bearings. Then off it went never to be seen again.

What an amazing memory to have with my son. That’s what’s it’s all about.
Now for the next species and until next time……