I finally made it to the new venue I wanted to try, a 33 acre wind lashed reservoir, in search of pike this week. It’s another gem on the Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society card, but one I’ve never fished before, so after a walk around recently, I was itching to get started!
I pulled up in the car park to find I was the only one on the venue, and after the lashing of Storm Ophelia the day before, I wasn’t all that surprised, as the wind still fairly howled across the exposed waters… It was cold, it was expected to remain cold, and with the blustery squalls still evident, I knew I was on for a tough session. The water had dropped around three feet, as the reservoir is also used to moderate the surrounding canal network, so instead of being perched atop the platforms, I was able to find some semblance of shelter nestled on the lake bed itself, in the lee of the retaining wall; hopefully, it would prove a little more comfortable.
Prior research had pointed to the pike being on the feed; I was informed that one particular angler had landed six or seven fish a couple of days before, although my informant had unfortunately blanked! My contact had also casually mentioned a river bed running across the area, and that pike could often be found hunting within the depression, but it took a hefty cast to drop a deadbait on the spot, so I tooled up with 3lb test curve Sonik SK3 XTR rods, and the mighty Tounos 10000 reel to enable such a sixty odd yard cast in safety. Both were perched on single stick arrays, with a drop off indicator on the rear bank stick, and the line tight to the lead. Earlier in the week, I’d been privy to an internet debate, during which an ‘experienced’ predator angler had advised a newcomer to fish slack lines whilst deadbaiting, which in truth, horrified me! I cannot condone the idea of giving a pike the opportunity to lift, engulf, and swallow a bait before moving off and giving any indication at my end, which is why I use the tightest set up I can possibly manage. Braid gives even greater indication due to its non-stretch properties, and should also be given serious consideration by the pike angler. Notification is everything when pike fishing to prevent harm to the fish, and any indication should be immediately wound down on to until resistance is felt, then a strike made to set the hooks at the earliest opportunity; gone are the days of “…count to ten”. Hit the run as soon as it is noticed, you’ll be amazed how fast a pike can swallow a bait resulting in a deeply hooked fish, so don’t give it chance! It’s better to strike early and miss the fish, than leave it too late and cause difficulty…
As always when presented with a new pike water, experimentation is required to find the tactics and bait to suit. Both baits were legered on three ounce leads, on one rod, a roach deadbait pinned down, and on the other, a disgustingly bloody piece of lamprey, without doubt one of the best pike baits available. Both were heaved out towards the river bed, tightened, and lines placed in the indicators, ready to release under the slightest of pressure… The wind was getting stronger, so my brolly was firmly dug in and tied to a nearby platform, whilst I hunkered down with a brew as I watched the waves crash against the far bank. I was still on my own, under a leaden sky, and enjoying watching kestrel and wagtail fight against the conditions as they flitted around the lake, whilst listening to the hum of the wind as my sheltered strained and snapped at its tethers… it was cold, but it was blissful to experience as I waited expectantly…proper pike fishing!
A couple of hours in, and I’d checked the baits to see whether I was fishing on weed, or clear spots, then settled back under the confines of my nylon abode, when I spied a solitary figure carefully making his way towards me. He got closer, and asked whether I’d caught, to which I replied in the negative. “You’ll be lucky today” he informed me, “I’ve had eleven straight blanks so far, it’s not fishing well, and the weather isn’t right!” No sooner had he uttered his greeting, than a single bleep gave enough cause for me to glance at the rods, and note that interest was being signalled in the roach hook bait! The indicator head pulled up, then dropped, then released as I engaged the bail arm, wound down, and swept the rod into a graceful arc as I set the trebles; fish on! (Much to the disgruntlement of the chap next to me)
A couple of minutes was all that was required to bring the fish back towards from the sixty yard mark, and as it spun in the weak sunlight, I could see it was marked by a previous encounter, wither with an angler, or a bigger fish. Once in the net, it looked to be a scraper double figure fish, hopefully of around ten pounds, and I could see a bait lodged deep in its throat! Thankfully, my trebles were only lightly nicked in the jaw, one in the scissor, and one under the tongue, not attached to the bait, and both were quickly removed as the pike coughed up the bait on to the mat… it was a smelt! I’m no magician, and after checking that I had indeed put a roach on the hooks, I can only assume that the fish had been recently caught, or had picked up a discarded bait as other anglers had packed up the day before! Either way, the scrapes were treated with a lanoline based carp care cream, and the pike gathered up in the net, then rested in the margins until recovered. It swam off strongly, and I returned to replace the bait and recast.
The gentleman in attendance wandered off to greet two other anglers who had since arrived, so I poured another brew, and sat back to watch the water, hoping for another fish. An hour later, he returned, and informed me that the chap above had caught a similarly sized fish to mine, but his chum has nothing to report, but at least something was happening. My lamprey bait remained untouched, which surprised me, and as I moved to retrieve it, the indicator pulled off, the alarm squealed, and line peeled off the spool; another fish! Again, I swept the rod aloft, and felt the firm thump of fury on the other end. Initially, it felt like a small fish, but then the rod took on an almighty curve as this pike hugged the bottom, making strong runs left and right as it tried to dislodge the hooks. As the tussle continued, I managed to recover some line, and the fish came up off the bottom to surface like a U-boat a couple of rod lengths out. It was a decent fish, I could see within the oily swirl a lengthy predator, perhaps even the first twenty of the season, as it turned and plunged back into the depths, before it tried once more to take line. At this point, I made a mistake; instead of letting it fight against the clutch, I clamped the spool to force the fish to the surface, and as it arrived on a tight line, it burst into the air in a glittering shower of spray! It was majestic; a lovely dark green back mottled with bright yellow tiger stripes, framed by glistening droplets, as it leapt forth in what seemed like slow motion! Every detail was crystal clear, including the red tipped trebles which flew back towards me as the monster shook its head, twisted in the air, and threw the trace! Ahhh!
It splashed back down, crashing through the surface, and disappearing, leaving nothing but a turbulent ripple, and a very disappointed angler! I was enthralled by that fish, it was a superb specimen, in pristine condition, which beat me hands (or fins) down. My own error, and keenness to see it had been my undoing, so I only had myself to blame! Sadly, that was the last opportunity of the visit, and although I waited until dusk, when the wind dropped and sky took on hues of orange and pink, I had no more interest in my baits. I can’t pretend that I didn’t enjoy it though, and perhaps losing that fish is a good thing, it will certainly heighten my anticipation for next time, and, as I also witnessed the angler next door land an immaculate fish of eighteen pounds, it only served to whet my appetite for more! I’ll be back next week for another go…hopefully I’ll hook my nemesis again soon!