A while ago I wrote a short article in ‘Pikelines’ describing a fabulous morning’s sport I had experienced fly fishing for pike on a local private estate lake. The action had been non-stop resulting in 21 pike boated (including 4 doubles) and plenty of really exciting on/offs and follows etc. I recall that my final comment was something like: “Surely I shall never better it?!”
Well, I have bettered it, and by a considerable margin, albeit that this time I only landed 2 doubles. Nevertheless the story is rather an amazing one, which I feel certain many readers will struggle to believe. Indeed I have somewhat of a job to believe it myself looking back – and I was there!!
The weather had been dry for some time and our local river was in perfect order and nicely clear. I had been having some great catches during 3 or 4-hour sessions with pike flies – a typical result being 10 to 15 fish, mostly in the 3 to 8lb category, at times with a double or two among them. On the occasion in question, Bob Church and I made a very leisurely start at about 11.30 on a mild January morning, with cloud cover and a gentle breeze – perfect conditions in fact. We had elected to try a new section of the river, which neither of us had pike fished previously, but which we had ear-marked for future exploration during a brief summer visit after carp (when we blanked!).
I had promised to be home by 5pm without fail, which meant that, no matter what, it would be a fairly short session. Bob was suffering slightly with his shoulder, making fly casting difficult, and so opted for his jerk rod and a home-made, bright pink M.G. jerkbait. I chose my favourite ‘Champion Piker’ fly outfit, which is a sheer delight to use and had been delivering the goods in the recent weeks.
I tend to be a bit nomadic, covering great distances in the course of my river piking, showing the fly (or lure) to as many different fish as possible during a session, in the hope that, sooner or later, I shall cover a big one that is in the mood. Bob, on the other hand, doesn’t like to walk too far, so I suggested that he should concentrate on the big meadow close to the vehicle, while I make my way a mile or so upstream with the plan of fishing steadily back down to him. So I set off with Sam, my big black labrador.
I hadn`t covered 500 yards when my mobile rang. On the other end was a hyper-excited Bob: “It’s amazing,” he said, “I`ve just had 6 pike in 7 casts! Quick, get yourself down here – they`re going crazy for it!”
I wished him more power to his elbow, and chose to carry on with my plan. But two or three hundred yards further and off went the phone again.
“It’s incredible. I`m up to 17 now! They must be packed in here like sardines!” he blurted, sounding almost beside himself with excitement.
I assured him that I was fine, and that the further I went upstream, the better it was looking. Eventually I decided to make a start on a likely looking, wide stretch, but no sooner had I made a cast and Bob was calling again. The score was now 29, including one double of 11lbs – and I hadn`t even started!
I must have cast my home-tied white streamer fly 30 times before I had a pull, although at 12lbs and in superb order, it was well worth waiting for and fought like a tiger! Having weighed and returned the fish, I was just drying my hands when the Nokia sounded forth once again. This time Bob was almost delirious with joy and excitement.
“It’s totally unbelievable,” he reported with a distinct tremor in his voice:” I’ve never known anything like it! I`m up to 35 now and I believe I’m going to get 50! There seems to be some sort of action every cast, and I’m spending most of my time unhooking the blighters! How many have you had, by the way?”
“One,” I replied, “but a nice one, a 12-pounder.”
“Please come down where I am,” Bob implored, “It’s alive with them!”.
I reassured him that I was fine and asked him to call again if he did make 50 (a lifetime best!). Wherever I was, I would pack up and come down to photograph the 50th .
Thankfully, though not surprisingly in the ideal conditions, I started to get regular hits, mostly from small fish, and at one stage I remember catching 4 pike in 5 casts. I was really enjoying myself now and my score started to mount steadily. I had just slipped back number 20 when, inevitably, the phone rang again. Bob of course!
“Well?” I enquired.
“I’m playing number 50, and it’s a good one!”
“Right, I’m on my way. Just leave it in the river `til I get there.”
It didn’t take me many minutes to cover the few hundred yards to where Bob had started fishing but, on my arrival, I was astonished to see him no more than 150 yards downstream!
“Surely you’ve not had 50 fish out of this little stretch, have you?” I asked.
“It’s been one-a-cast” he exclaimed, “I wouldn’t have thought it possible, and just look at this one!”
There in the margin lay a beautifully marked 12-pounder with the pink jerkbait still in its scissors. We soon took the photo, unhooked and released the fish, which swam away strongly, and I congratulated Bob on his P.B. catch of pike in a single session, made even better by the fact that every single one had succumbed to the lure I had made for him. I then confirmed that I had caught 20 fish – only one short of my own PB on fly!
“Fish here,” he insisted, “you’ll get one straight away – watch this!”
He cast out the killer bait once more, gave three jerks and ‘WALLOP!’, almost uncannily another good pike was on, this one proving to be an 11-pounder.
“It’s been like this all the time,” Bob assured me, “totally unreal! You have a cast and I’ll follow behind you with the jerk”.
I then dutifully cast my fly to the far bank, took a pace downstream, and started to retrieve. Sure enough, 4 or 5 pulls and the rod was nearly wrenched out of my hand by a savage take. Number 21 was soon landed and released. In the next 20 yards I caught another 6 fish, whilst Bob had nothing behind me. I seemed to be clearing up all the ready takers, so I then left him and wandered another 200 yards downstream to continue operations. The action carried on, though not as frantically as in Bob’s hot spot, but by the time we had agreed to stop fishing, I had caught 34 pike, including another nice double at 10lbs 6oz, and a cracking perch to round off a truly fantastic session!
Bob reported that they had largely gone off where he was, though he`d managed a further 5 bringing his total to 56, including 3 doubles!
“Good grief,” I said, “we`ve had 90 pike between us in one session – it’s almost beyond belief!”
“We’d have had 100 if we had started a bit earlier.” said Bob.
“Well 90 is plenty enough for me, and I’ll bet you now that we never get anywhere near it again in the future”.
I`m pretty sure we never will, but what a fabulous experience it had been. Believe or not, as you will: I have simply reported the facts as I remember them, and it was a real privilege to have been part of it.
As a footnote, I fished the next day (retirement is SO nice!) with Derek, my next door neighbour, whilst Bob joined Gareth, another Northampton Specimen Group member. They jerked and we fly fished on the same river, though on different stretches. In identical, perfect conditions we managed 13 fish – all under 3lbs – and the other two had a complete blank! It just goes to show.
Also, some 3 weeks later I took another friend to Bob’s hot spot and we caught one between us! Literally thousands of fry were topping on this second occasion, which helped to explain the presence of all those pike, but they were certainly not having it that day!
So, as you can see, I have my share of lean times as well (and enjoy them just the same!), though I just have to tell you that at the end of that same month I was fortunate enough to catch a pristine fish of 28lbs 8oz from the same river on a self-tied fly, and this I regard as the pinnacle of my angling career… so far!
Will I ever better that? I very much doubt it, but there again, you never know!!