Wednesday 24 September 2014

First frosts cobblers

1st October has long been the traditional start to the “Pike season” for many anglers.  Autumn is upon us and we get the call, ‘it’s Pike time’.  For some its unthinkable for people to begin Pike fishing before October, to them it’s almost cheating.  Then there are others who claim that its simply too warm to fish for Pike until the winter weather hits us and we’ve had a few cold, crisp nights and frosty mornings.  You can read this on forums and Facebook pages all over the web but I’m not sure where this opinion comes from.  Maybe these people are busy fishing for other species and don’t like the thought of Pikers getting in before them.  Maybe they’ve never fished before winter, so don’t know what it’s like.  Or perhaps they’ve just read and repeated someone else’s opinion from elsewhere on the net.  Whatever the reason behind the opinion, to say Piking before the frosts is somehow bad, is simply a load of cobblers.

In the past I have been a year round Piker, I fished baits through the colder months and lures when it was warmer.  To begin my lure fishing was mostly a bit of fun to pass time between cricket matches, I also used it as a way to search out new waters.  As I got more interested in lure fishing I took it more seriously but I learnt to be selective about the waters I fished and I learnt that when it’s really hot Pike are almost impossible to catch.  For me, bait fishing for Pike has always started in mid-September, when the daytime temperatures are in mid-teens, there’s a good wind on the water and it feels ‘right’.  At this time of year I’ve mostly fished stillwaters and can honestly say that the six weeks or so leading up to the first frosts are the most productive and most enjoyable time of my Pike season.

Let’s face it, the cold bleak days of January are hard work, just keeping warm requires extra effort, unless you choose to spend these days static, zipped up in a bivvy.  The waters are looking weather beaten too, gone are the vibrant greens, the trees are reduced to skeletons and the banks are often a sea of mud.  I must admit there is a certain charm when the banks are covered with a layer of frost however.  In autumn you wear less clothes and can travel lighter.  I love the sights, colours and smells of autumn, it’s a real joy to be out on the banks.  And the fishing is bloody good too.

If you know your waters then you’ll know where to find the Pike and they are usually in different areas to where you’ll fish for them in mid-winter.  They won’t be skinny and underfed either, often they are in better condition than they are at the end of the autumn.  They will also fight dam hard too but not so hard they knacker themselves and die as some internet experts will have us believe.  I find Pike will happily take a deadbait at this time of year and often I don’t even bother with lives until after the first frosts, could there be a clue there?  As I said, I’ve mostly fished stillwaters during the autumn but when I’ve ventured onto rivers I have found it a different story.  They are often too weedy and sluggish and I think these rivers do fish better in the winter.

A few years ago the third weekend of September rolled round, the weather wasn’t too hot and it felt like time.  I fished my favourite water and was lucky to catch four fish including one very special Pike.  This one made me fight for every inch of line, at one point I thought I had her netted only for the fish to leap clean out of the net and start fighting again.  I won the battle in the end and hoisted her into the boat.  I removed my double hooks easily but peering into the mouth I noticed another trace with a treble hook stitching up the throat, someone had obviously started Piking earlier than me.  What should I do next?  Do I remove the trace or should I avoid stressing the fish out and just photograph and return her as quickly as possible?  I chose to remove the trace and after a rest in the Sladle she was weighed and photographed.  I was happy to feel her kick out of my grip and swim away strongly.  Later I found out this fish was caught at least twice more that season, weighing considerably heavier each time.  I done no harm by catching that fish on a mild late September day and done the right thing in taking the hooks out.  And here she is…

Thursday 4 September 2014

Old stuff, new stuff

It’s the time of year when I have to think about braving the shed, stashing the summer gear and getting the winter gear ready.  This isn’t quite as bad a job as it once was. In the spring I dragged literally everything out, dodged the giant spiders and removed the dead rats; I even chucked a load of old tat away.  The result is a shed which although still crammed is much easier to deal with.  I dragged out the bag and chair I reviewed last time for a photo, better late than never.  (I realised I’d forgotten to mention the pocket on top of the bag that holds scales and sling.)  With a bit of shuffling I also brought all the rods I currently use to the surface, is sixteen a bit extreme? 
 There are four Carp rods, one Tench rod, one feeder and one float that I use through the warmer months.  Then there are two sets of Pike rods, four twelve footers for bank fishing and four more that are ten feet for the boat.  I also have a couple of lure rods left that I haven’t managed to break yet.  Off the top of my head there are another seven or eight that I never use and a few more bits of busted ones.  As long as I have room I’ll hang on to my old or retired rods and reels.  I may be daft but there are memories wrapped up in them, not just the fish, people and places too.  Somewhere I have a classic North Western SS6, eleven feet of ‘fast taper’ glass fibre that hasn’t been used in years.  

I’m not bothered about particular brands so my rods are from all over the place.  I have several built on Tricast blanks dating back to the late 80’s which I used for virtually all my fishing for almost two decades but mostly use for carp these days.  My lucky rod is a 2.5tc rod made by Century which I bought second hand in the 90’s.  I have a few VFM rods from Middy that are cheap and cheerful but do exactly what I want them too; one Carp rod (which is actually branded as 30plus), along with two ‘Works’ rods I use for float & feeder fishing.  I have one Daiwa Barbel rod bought mostly for Tench that I haven’t used enough to have an opinion on.  I recently snapped up a pair of Greys Pike rods that I haven’t even used yet.  Isaac has a Fox Pike rod which is very nice, in fact one of my few unbroken lure rods is also from Fox.  My boat rods are a mixture; Normark, Fox, and one particularly nice one from Dave Lumb. 

I still have a couple of Mitchell 300a reels hidden away somewhere as well as an Intrepid ‘Black Prince’ that is still in its box, I’ve never used it so it doesn’t really count.  I have a pair of the original Shimano baitrunners from about 1987ish, line lay wasn’t great but they made good reels if you didn’t need to whack baits right out.  At the time the free spool facility was revolutionary and I’ve preferred bait runner type reels ever since.  I used these reels for over twenty year before the anti-reverse went on both within a few weeks.  By this time spares were unavailable but I managed to bodge one of them with a bit of trace wire.  Unfortunately it’s no longer silent but it still gets used from time to time.  Sometime in the 90’s I bought a pair of ‘Aero’s’ (without baitrunner) and one of these is still in working order too.  Nowadays I have a couple of ‘ST’ baitrunners on my boat rods, these are the cheapest baitrunners but so far two years without a hitch.  I also have a ‘DL’ which is a bit more expensive but has a stiffer baitrunner than the ST.  When I’m Piking I like my spool as free as possible, so the DL is only used on Carp rods now.  I have a feeling the newer Shimanos’ won’t last as long as the old ones. 

About ten years ago I needed reels and was short on cash so bought a couple of Okuma Interceptors.  I figured they would do the job until I could afford better reels, I’m still using them today.  I also bought a larger Interceptor primarily for boat fishing.  It cost me about £35, I’ve had it about eight years and it is still the best reel I own.  Earlier this year I took a punt on a Nash FR8 which was £35, (the same as the Okuma,) I haven’t been at all impressed with this.  I have a Fox Stratos which I’ve used for a few years in the boat but now sits on a carp rod because it just felt too small.  This has now been replaced by a Fox EOS which looks and feels a good bit of kit for the price.  A winter of abuse in the boat is a good test for any reel.  I have about fourteen reels still in regular use (all bar 4 have free spool) but I never seem to have enough reels.
My first free-spool reel and my most recent.