My regular fishing pal, Bob Church, and I are very fortunate in having access to some wonderful fishing venues, sometimes exclusive access, which is a rare privilege. One such place is a small midlands estate with two 35-acre gravel pits where no one else fishes for pike. Indeed we are only allowed on one of these lakes for two weeks a year, as it is a wildfowl reserve. We greatly look forward to our annual chance to have a crack at this delightful pit, and pray that the weather is kind to us at the time. A couple of years ago, the appearance of a deep brown algal bloom coincided with our chance and it was hopeless to even try. However there was no such problem this year – the water was gin-clear and this week was the start of ‘our time’!
Bob is a bit of a livebait enthusiast and we arrived in the afternoon with a few baits in a cold south-east wind and heavy rain. It was pretty hard going and the livebaits remained untouched, although I managed 3 or 4 fish to 11lbs on a home-made jerkbait, which saved the blank. With the kind permission of the owner, we returned the following morning in far more pleasant conditions, retrieved the 3 baits we had left overnight and set off in the boat with considerably more optimism. I am just a little squeamish these days regarding the use of livebaits and set up my jerk rod as number one strategy. The electric motor eased us gently around the shallow bay at the south end of the pit with me casting my jerkbait on one side, and Bob his favourite copper spoon on the other. Neither produced a result of any kind and we concluded that, despite the seemingly perfect conditions, they were either ‘off’ or not in the shallow areas. Nearing the island after a thorough sweep of the bay, Bob bagged a roach livebait and launched it towards the shore on a free-roving float set-up saying: “this’ll get one!”. His float never settled but dived straight under and steamed off underwater at quite a pace.
“You can’t have got one already”, I said, “not after 3 seconds?’
I just couldn’t believe the instant response but sure enough when he tightened up I clearly saw the flash of a pike underwater.
“The bait must have dropped right on its nose”, I said.
Returning that fish of 7 or 8lbs, Bob quickly had bait number 2 on and out, where, amazingly it was taken instantly by another, larger pike. After a good battle Bob led this one to the side of the boat where I could clearly see that it was 14/15lbs, with a large head and fairly slim body. As I reached out with the net the pike spat out the bait and departed! The boat drifted slowly away down the gentle breeze and Bob tossed out the poor old same bait again. Astonishingly the float disappeared immediately. It had been taken and guess what? – by the very same fish! It was a bit like Groundhog Day, as that same pike came to the boat and shook the bait out once again!! This was becoming uncanny.
Out went that unfortunate fish once more, and unbelievably straight into the jaws of?—yes, that same pike yet again!!
I should point out at this stage that we had by now drifted almost 100 yards from the original island spot, and although it had to be seen to be believed, it was almost as though that pike was following the boat!
This time he got it and I netted out a 14lb pike with the head of a ’20’. Despite its ordeal and possible old age, it seemed none the worse for wear, and after a quick piccy, swam off heartily! I have never seen such a thing in all my angling career, and shall most likely never see such a thing again!
So far I had played the role of spectator and ghillie and so I was a little relieved when my jerkbait was suddenly snatched by an immaculate 12 pounder, followed by a very small one and then a very nice fish of 17lbs 4oz.
After this success we decided on a soup break, and, considering the very clear water, I thought I would break out my favourite pike fly rod – the 9-foot, 10/12 weight ‘Bob Church Pro Piker’. This rod, in my view, is perfect for any pike from 3 to 30lbs, will cast a big fly 30 yards in favourable conditions, is light, steely and a real delight to use. I’m not saying this because Bob is my mate (indeed I don’t believe that they are available any more), but it really is a terrific little rod. In truth any decent 10-weight rod should do the trick.
As for flies, I make my own and they are so easy to tie. You can put as much into them as you like, but I really don’t think the pike are too fussy when they are ‘up for it’!
On this occasion, I selected a bright orange, self-tied fly on a 5/0 hook and clipped it to the trace ready for action.
(Regarding the trace, you can use 15 inches of wire or, as I have come to prefer, 120lbs B.S. Seaguar fluorocarbon, which is practically invisible in the water and has never let me down yet! As for the clip, I have tried all sorts and settled on size 3 Power Snaps, available from Dave Lumb. No clip is invincible but I think these are the best.)
My change to the fly proved to be the right choice. After just a few casts the Pro Piker hooped over and I was into the first of a succession of decent fish. Bob had a second double on the last livebait, but his lure rod remained fishless, despite determined effort. He was most impressed by my orange fly, which just seemed to keep catching them – nice fish too, including doubles of 15 and 16.8.
Towards the end of the afternoon my fly stopped with a savage pull and everything went solid. The pike set off sideways in a steady, unstoppable straight run and I realised I was into a really good fish. After a prolonged and powerful battle it was at the side of the boat and we both thought it was a big double. However lifting the fish onto the unhooking mat convinced me that it was a definite ’20’ and the scales confirmed this as the needle went round to 24.8. My twentieth 20 on fly and a really pristine specimen!
It was a case of floating on air for the rest of the afternoon, although another fish of 8lbs succumbed to the orange killer fly for good measure.
So we ended the afternoon with 14 pike, one 20 and 7 doubles. 3 came on bait, 3 on jerks and 8 on fly – a great mixed method session!
I have always maintained that fly fishing for pike is a method that can hold its own with any other when the fish are up for it and, without doubt, for me at least, it is by far the most fun. I would urge all pikers to consider giving it a go, because once you have experienced that magic take and thrill of the fight, you, like me, will be hooked and will not really want to catch them any other way!
Tight Lines !!