For several years I haven’t really had to think about where to fish for Pike but since the natural disaster of this spring I’ve had no choice. As much as I love the Broads it’s getting to the stage where it will become no longer viable. The trouble I now have is finding somewhere that meets my strict criteria and it will not be easy.
When I began Pike fishing in the early eighties I was lucky to have excellent fisheries on my door step. For fifteen years or so I didn’t need to spend more than twenty minutes in the car to reach a good Pike water. We took it for granted thinking this would always be the way but as we all now know, good Pike fishing doesn’t last. For most of the last twenty years I have travelled for at least an hour in any direction for my Pike fishing, the waters I grew up fishing have been largely overlooked. This autumn I’ve been having a little look at old haunts, as you’d expect they’ve changed a lot but can I see myself fishing them?
I literally grew up on the banks of ‘The Pits’, it was here I learnt to fish and became addicted to Pike fishing. I witnessed other anglers catching big Pike and decided I wanted a bit of that for myself. Most of my early Pike fishing milestones occurred during this time and it was here I was taught how to set up a float paternoster rig and yes a Pike really would pick up a dead fish from the bottom. A walk around the place sees me passing swims that hold many memories despite looking very different to when I spent my time here. The trees have grown tall and thick making it a much prettier place nowadays compared to the bleak new gravel pit I remember. In places banks have eroded forming new features whereas in others siltation has made areas much shallower than I remember. The spot where I caught my first twenty back in 1983 is now unsafe to fish due to fallen trees. The nature of the fish stocks have changed too, predation from Cormorants has depleted the silver fish shoals and Otters have seen off the Tench. The pit can no longer sustain the same head of Pike that I remember from way back when. These missing fish have been replaced by the species of choice of this era, carp.
Once upon a time most of the anglers fishing here would be casting wagglers and sitting on blue Shakespeare boxes, nowadays its bivvies, bedchairs and buzzers. I have no problem with whatever people choose to fish for but it seems that many of the best areas for Pike are also good for carp. If the place is busy I may not be able to get in a decent spot. A while back a few of us tried to get a livebait ban overturned here, we didn’t expect to succeed and so it proved. The carp anglers were worried that us scruffy Pikers would bring disease ridden baits to the lake and infect their precious carp. As we know, this just never happens and it’s ironic because the original stock of carp here died after illegal introductions of… more carp. There are some very good anglers fishing for the carp these days, however there are far more brainwashed sheep who follow the Korda manual and catch very little. These people then shout loudly and call for more carp to be stocked. Can I really get motivated to fish here?
From 'The Pits'
Our first thoughts were to try and propel our baits as far out as we could. The late Nigel Forrest of Breakaway Tackle had just designed a rig which streamlined everything and allowed us to cast great distances. Nigel’s rig wasn’t quite perfect but it was very good but didn’t catch on. We used it to catch many fish including some big ones. In mid-winter depth, range and location were crucial and our streamlined rigs definitely caught us a few bonus fish. Bait-boats were rare in the late eighties so we often had to resort to using party balloons to drift our livebaits to where we wanted them. Anyone who is old enough to have used this method will remember just how inefficient it could be but with a bit of luck and the wind from the right direction, it did actually produce a few fish. Over time we became more familiar with the ‘big one’ and realised long range casting wasn’t always necessary. In fact most of the time it was possible to catch fish quite close in. If I could be bothered to check I’m sure I’d find I caught many more Pike close in than I ever did to the big chucks.
The 'Big one'
A walk with the lure rod revealed this water had also changed greatly. For a start the bankside trees have spread and thickened so much that you just can’t get to the water in many of the places I used to fish. The water has also been developed for uses other than angling making it anything but peaceful once the sun is out on a pleasant day. Apparently the water is still quite popular with Pikers even now, making the few accessible areas potentially busy. Can I really be arsed to fish this one?
From the 'Big one'