Its rare for me to fish in my home county, for most of my fishing I travel at least fifty miles. I’m fussy about where I fish, I like to spend my time in beautiful, natural places where there are few, if any, other anglers. The fishing itself has to be interesting; challenging with the possibility of a huge fish. I only know of one water in my local area that ticks all of those boxes, a large still water that I first fished over twenty years ago. Back in the late eighties and early nineties this was a superb Pike fishery and I was lucky to enjoy some fantastic fishing there. Unfortunately by the mid nineties this was a water in serious decline, the roach seemed to have vanished and the Pike were several pounds under weight and very tatty. By the late nineties to even catch a Pike was a rare event.
So what caused the demise of this fishery? Too much pressure from Pike anglers was definitely a factor, some anglers were using tackle that was totally inadequate for what was a snaggy water. To be fair anglers weren’t as enlightened as they are today but the poor old Pike took a battering all the same. There was also a huge problem with migrating cormorants coming in from the continent. I can remember fishing in the winter of 1989/90 counting around sixty of these birds all feeding in an area we knew to be packed tight with bait fish. This may go a long way to explaining the disappearance of the roach. Whatever the reason by the time of the millennium the water was hardly worth fishing.
Despite all this, my friends and I loved fishing the place so we would drop in every now and again more in hope than expectation. In the spring of 2005 we actually caught a few Pike too, it seemed the water was in the beginning of a recovery. I fished hard that season and caught plenty of fish but the bigger Pike were hard to track down. I did manage a few double figure fish up to a best of 19 ½ pounds for my trouble. The fishing still isn’t a patch on days gone by but it is still worth a visit from time to time.
My biggest Pike from the water, 23 pounds in 1991
I had very little time at my disposal this weekend so it was an ideal opportunity to visit the “Big one” once more. I met my friend Jim before dawn and we made our way to a favourite swim, nowadays hidden away from prying eyes behind scrub willow. The plan was to fish deadbaits and occasionally cast lures whilst chilling out and catching up as it’s been several months since we last fished together. It was still dark when I cast my first rod, baited with half a Bluey to the edge of the weed line. On my second rod I ledgered a Lamprey and chucked this as far out into the water as I could.
I’d hardly sat down when the alarm on the rod baited with Bluey sounded as a fish moved rapidly off with the bait. A quick strike pulled into a lively little fish of around seven pounds that thought it was much bigger, it tried to pull my arms off but was well out gunned by the powerful tackle we use these days. This fish was in superb condition, short and stocky with vivid markings. An hour later Jim had a take on a Herring, also fished close to the weed line which produced a similar sized Pike to our first. Unfortunately this fish showed signs that some anglers haven’t learnt from the mistakes of years gone by. The flanks were red raw with patches of missing scales as if it had been unhooked whilst laid on gravel. The worst of this should heal in time but it will show a scar for life.
Jim added another small fish later, hooked on a Kuusamo spoon but I really couldn’t be bothered with any lure fishing today. I was content to sit and relax, enjoying the late autumn sunshine. Yes I must also admit I spent a quite a lot of time reminiscing about days gone by too! We’d had a good laugh and caught a few Pike in beautiful surroundings, that’ll do for me today. By late morning I was running out of time but packing away was made easy for me as the footpaths were filling up with dog walkers, ramblers and mountain bikers, another unwelcome change from years gone by! It was nice to return to the “Big one” once again, one of these days it will be a good Pike fishery again, just hope I’ll be around to see it.